February 2022 | Number 472
CDC Relaxes Masking Guidance
From ABC News:

"More than 70% of Americans should be able to remove their masks indoors, including inside schools, under new metrics outlined Friday [by] the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that represent a seismic shift in how the public health agency plans to measure COVID-19 risk.

"Under the new metrics, more than half of U.S. counties, which make up about three-fourths of where Americans live, are now considered to be at 'low' or 'medium' risk because of a reduced number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations and adequate hospital space. Accordingly, the CDC would no longer recommend that these communities insist on indoor masking.

"While the updated guidance drops the recommendation of universal masking in schools, the CDC said it is still reviewing a federal requirement that individuals wear masks on public transportation, including on airplanes.

"The new recommendations are a major change in how the federal government is approaching pandemic guidance. Under previous rules, the CDC primarily considered COVID-19 case counts to determine risk. And because case counts remained high, the public health agency had stuck to its recommendation of indoor masking, including inside schools.

"But that approach didn't take into account that vaccinations are now widely available to people over age 5 and that most vaccinated people who tested positive during the omicron and delta waves experienced mostly mild symptoms that did not require hospitalization. The omicron wave, which infected a vast majority of the country, also boosted the nation's immunity from prior infection for the timebeing.

"When asked why it dropped its universal masking recommendation for schools, the CDC said the lower risk of serious COVID-19 illness in kids was a factor.

"'We know that also because children are relatively at lower risk from severe illness that schools can be safe places for children. And so for that reason, we're recommending that schools use the same guidance that we are recommending in general community settings, which is that we're recommending people where a mask in high levels of COVID-19' risk, said Dr. Greta Massetti, a senior CDC official."
Catholic School Enrollment Up
From the AP:

"Enrollment in Catholic schools in the United States rose 3.8% from the previous academic year, rebounding from a sharp drop caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"The National Catholic Educational Association said nationwide enrollment increased by 62,000 to about 1.68 million students, marking the first increase in two decades and the largest jump it has recorded in at least five decades.

"'Enrollment at all types of schools -- public, charter and private -- were impacted last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Catholic schools had a decline in enrollment of 6.4% from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021,' the NCEA said about the largest single year decline in the 50 years since it has collected data.

"'Catholic schools’ dedication in safely opening classrooms and supporting their communities’ needs last year is demonstrated in the 3.8% increase in enrollment.'"

New Department of Education Report: COVID Impact on School, Principals, & Teachers
The Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released a new report titled "Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic on Public and Private Elementary and Secondary Education in the United States (Preliminary Data): Results from the 2020-21 National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS)." Among its findings:

  • Sixty-one percent of private school teachers reported that they had real-time interactions with over three-quarters of their students during the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. This was about twice the rate of public school teachers (32 percent). Public school teachers reported having no real-time interactions with their students (13 percent) at a higher rate than private school teachers (9 percent).

  • Sixty-three percent of private school teachers (compared to 47 percent of public school teachers) reported using scheduled real-time lessons that allowed students to ask questions through a video or audio call in spring 2020. 

  • Public school principals reported assigning computers or digital devices to all students to take home at a higher rate than private school principals (45 vs. 20 percent).

  • Private school principals somewhat or strongly agreed that they had the support and resources they needed to be effective at a higher rate than public school principals (78 versus 74 percent). Seventy-six percent of private school teachers somewhat or strongly agreed that they had the support and resources they needed to be effective compared to 61 percent of public school teachers.
South Dakota Governor Signs Bill Increasing Tax Credit Scholarship Program
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has signed legislation increasing the cap on the state's tax credit scholarship program from $2 million to $3.5 million. Under the new law, children in foster care will also be automatically eligible for the scholarships.
Agudath Israel Announces Education Assistance Program for Lakewood, NJ
Agudath Israel has worked with local leaders to create a grant program from federal relief funds that can be used for private school tuition costs.

According to an Agudath release, "The Educational Assistance Program (EAP) is a grant for educational costs available to Lakewood residents who have been adversely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and meet income eligibility requirements. This grant is the first of its kind in the State of New Jersey, in which government funding will be available for private school tuition, amongst other educational uses. The grant is sponsored by the Lakewood Township through the American Rescue Plan of 2021, and is being administered through the New Jersey office of Agudath Israel."
Homeschool Parents Surprise School Choice Advocates with Opposition to ESA Bill
From the local Fox affiliate in Alabama:

"Architects of legislation that would allow parents to opt out of the public school system and take their tax dollars with them has run into a surprising group of opponents – homeschool parents.

"State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), who is co-sponsoring the bill, said he did not expect that, considering homeschool families are among the intended beneficiaries.

"'I was taken aback by the number and the degree of concern that they had,' he said.

"The bill, which has cleared a Senate committee, would allow parents to set up education savings accounts funded with the money that the state would have spent on their children’s education. Based on the current budget, that would be $5,561 a year. Parents would be able to use the money for private school tuition, fees to other public schools and a wide variety of education-related expenses.

"Mallory Carey, a homeschool parent from Mobile, said the money would be helpful, especially in getting services for her son who has Down Syndrome – services the public schools don’t provide.

"But she told FOX10 News that she and other homeschool parents fear the loss of freedom that would come with taking the money. She pointed to an amendment that would require homeschool students to take standardized tests given to public school students.

"'When you start introducing a standardized test, you then have to adapt your curriculum to make sure that the child then is standardized to the test. … Then we have to make sure that we teach to the test,' she said. 'So you limit our curriculum.'"

"Albritton said he recognizes the concerns of homeschool parents but added those fears 'are probably a little bit overboard.'"

"A state takeover of homeschool education is not the aim of the bill and not the likely result of it, Albritton said. And he added that accepting the money – and the rules that come with it – would be voluntary.

"'It doesn’t require them to participate,' he said. 'It doesn’t require the home-schoolers to become involved with this. You still have to sign up for it. Both the parents, the child and the school has to sign up. So in that way, they are free.'"
School Choice Legislation Active in at Least Eleven States
School choice continues to be a hot topic across the country, perhaps more so than ever. The folks at reimaginED have a breakdown of choice bills that are moving through eleven state legislatures. You can read it here.
New Poll Shows Huge Support for School Choice

"According to a new poll from RealClear Opinion Research, which surveyed more than 2,000 registered voters, the concept of school choice enjoys overwhelming support (72% vs. 18% opposed). This is also true across party lines, with 68% of Democrats, 82% of Republicans, and 67% of Independents saying they support such a policy.

"This represents sizable increases in school choice support since the pandemic began. Changes since April 2020 include the following: 

Overall support: 64% -> 72% (+8 pp)
Democratic support: 59% -> 68% (+9 pp)
Republican support: 75% -> 82% (+7 pp)
Independent support: 60% -> 67% (+7 pp)
Private Education: Good for Students, Good for Families, Good for America
CAPE member organizations:

Agudath Israel of America

Association of Christian Schools

Association of Christian
Teachers and Schools

Association of Waldorf
Schools of N.A.

Christian Schools International

Council of Islamic Schools
in North America

Council on Educational Standards
and Accountability
Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America

Friends Council on Education

Islamic Schools League of America

Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

National Association of
Episcopal Schools

National Association of
Independent Schools

National Catholic
Educational Association
National Christian School

Office for Lasallian Education
Christian Brothers Conference

Oral Roberts University
Educational Fellowship

Seventh-day Adventist
Board of Education

United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran
Synod Schools
Affiliated State Organizations a coalition of national associations serving private schools K-12

Executive Director:
Michael Schuttloffel

Outlook is published monthly (September to June) by CAPE.
ISSN 0271-145

1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: 844-883-CAPE

Michael Schuttloffel
Executive Director
Phone: 844-883-CAPE