March 2021 | Number 463
Congress Approves Second Round of Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools
President Biden signed a new round of COVID relief into law March 11. The massive $1.9 trillion legislation includes $2.75 billion for the Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) program. EANS was established by Congress in December as part of the previous COVID relief bill. See the January edition of CAPE Outlook for more information on the EANS program.

This second round of EANS is similar to the first round, except for the important difference that the second round of EANS does not permit reimbursements. This will pose a challenge to State Education Agencies (SEA), many of which are planning to use the reimbursement approach for first round EANS funds.

Clarification on other points may be needed in the coming days as well, stay tuned to CAPE Outlook for more information.
CAPE Joins Amicus Brief on Important Supreme Court Case
Loyal Outlook readers will remember that in 2019, CAPE signed onto an amicus brief on the landmark Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case. That amicus was the only amicus brief referenced by a Supreme Court justice during Espinoza’s oral arguments. The Espinoza ruling ultimately proved to be one of the most important education decisions in decades.

A new case out of Maine is in many ways something of a sequel to Espinoza. Carson v. Makin was brought by students and parents challenging their exclusion from the Maine “town tuitioning program.” In Maine, 143 of the state’s 260 school districts do not operate their own high schools. Such school districts may under state law arrange for another school to teach all of their students, or these school districts may provide tuition payments to allow families to go to the public school or private school of their choice. The state, however, forbids students in the program from attending religious schools.

Parents were permitted to choose religious schools from 1903 until 1982, when the law was changed by the state legislature.

In October 2020, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit decided against the Maine families wishing to choose a religious school, effectively ruling that while Espinoza forbids a state from discriminating against a religious school because of its status as a religious school, a state is still allowed to discriminate against a religious school based on the religious use to which a student’s aid might be put at the school.

As explained by the Institute for Justice, the "federal appeals court ruled that participating schools can be religious in name, but if they do religious things, a parent cannot select that school under Maine’s program."

CAPE has signed a new amicus asking the US Supreme Court to take up the Maine case, arguing that contrary to the circuit court's decision, the Maine statute violates the First Amendment's Free Exercise clause. You can read it here.
HHS & CDC Provide Information on Vaccinations for Teachers
The Biden Administration has announced its intention to prioritize the vaccination of teachers and has released a fact sheet with information on how teachers can access the vaccine. You can view that information here.

Meanwhile, on February 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new COVID-19 guidance for schools, saying "access to vaccination should not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction." The guidance also included recommendations for phased reopening based on rates of community transmission according to a scheme of color-coded zones, which met with strong opposition from the governor of Florida among others.
Cardona Confirmed
Miguel Cardona was sworn in as secretary of education on March 2 after being confirmed by the US Senate 64-33. More information about the secretary, who previously served as the Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, can be found at the Department of Education's webpage.
Department of Education to Survey School Reopening Data
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education has announced what it is calling "the largest representative and highest-quality effort yet to gather vital data on the impact of COVID-19 on students and the status of in-person learning."

According to a Department of Education press release, data gathered in the survey will include:

  • The share of the nation's schools that are open with full-time in-person instruction, open with online and in-person instruction, or fully remote.
  • Enrollment by instructional mode by race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, English learner status, and disability status.
  • Attendance rates by instructional mode by race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, English learner status, disability status, and housing status.
  • Frequency of in-person learning for students.
  • Average number of hours of synchronous instruction for students in remote instruction mode. And,
  • Student groups prioritized by schools for in-person instruction by selected school characteristics. 

"The survey will collect data from approximately 3,500 schools that enroll fourth-graders and an equal number of schools that enroll eighth-graders. The public will have access to the highest-quality data about school reopenings for in-person instruction and how students are learning. Results will be collected monthly beginning this month and running through June, and key findings will be reported."
The Department of Education has released the first volume of its COVID-19 Handbook, designed to help schools implement the aforementioned CDC guidance. You can read it here.
It's About the Kids, Really...
A group of public school advocates in Indiana has released a video that charts new heights -- or rather plumbs new depths -- of irresponsibility and demagoguery. View it for yourself.

Given the circumstances of the past year, the use of this particular historical imagery to smear political opponents is especially exploitative and shameful. It is also uninformed. As Joseph Welch famously said to Joe McCarthy, "Have you no sense of decency?"

It seems not.
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

Jesuit Schools Network

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