Press Releases

WASHINGTON– U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined a letter led by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Grace Meng (D-NY-6) in support of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s proposal to expand the E-Rate program, which helps schools and libraries access affordable broadband. Under the proposal, the E-Rate program would be updated to allow schools and libraries to loan Wi-Fi hotspots to students and educators. In their letter, the lawmakers call for the expansion and modernization of the E-Rate hotspot program to help reduce educational disparities and ensure that all students can access the internet. 

The lawmakers wrote, “[We] are excited that the Commission has proposed to update the E-Rate program to allow schools and libraries to provide Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless internet services to students and educators. This proposal properly recognizes that learning now extends beyond the physical premises of school buildings.”

The lawmakers continued, “With millions of students at risk of losing internet access at home, we are glad to see the FCC exercising this authority and modernizing the E-Rate program, and we encourage the Commission to provide schools and libraries with the flexibility to adapt their programs to local conditions while continuing to effectively guard against fraud and waste.” 

Students who lack internet access at home face significant disadvantages in school, and a recent study found they receive lower grades than their classmates. Expanding the E-Rate program will build on the progress made through the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), which Warner and Kaine helped pass as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP),?to provide devices and connectivity for students and educators at home. With the ECF set to expire at the end of this year and the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) set to run out of funding soon, expanding the E-Rate program would also help prevent many students from losing internet access.

Joining Sens. Warner, Kaine, Markey, Van Hollen, and Meng on the letter in the Senate are Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). 

Warner – one of the principal authors of the ACP – and Kaine have long fought to expand access to broadband. The senators urged congressional leadership to extend funding for the ACP, which was created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) Warner and Kaine helped pass. They also announced nearly $1.5 billion in federal funding to expand high-speed internet through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, which was also made possible by the BIL. They’ve introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that funding for broadband deployment from the BIL and the ARP, will not be considered taxable income.

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel,

We write in strong support of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal to allow libraries and schools to provide Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless internet services to students and educators through the E-Rate program. This effort represents an important modernization of the E-Rate program and a recognition that learning now extends beyond the school and library premises. As the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated, students without access to the internet at home are at a distinct disadvantage compared to their better-connected peers. We urge the Commission to move ahead with the E-Rate hotspot program to help reduce educational disparities and ensure that low-income students are not left behind.

Although the E-Rate program has successfully connected nearly every school and library in the country, the changing nature of education has reconstituted some of the inequalities that led Congress to create E-Rate in 1998. Back then, better-resourced schools gained internet access ahead of low-income and disadvantaged schools, providing an advantage to their students. Today, that inequality exists among individual households. Now, wealthy and middle-class students almost universally can access high-speed internet at home, but low-income and disadvantaged students lag behind. As schools adopt online resources and homework increasingly requires an internet connection, this “Homework Gap” favors students in wealthy households over their low-income classmates.

If this inequality was not clear before 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic made it obvious. Although the pandemic had serious consequences for students of all backgrounds, low-income students — especially those without access to the internet at home — have faced the greatest impact. In surveys of students at different grade levels, the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress has repeatedly shown that high-performing students had much better access to the internet at home. A recent study of Michigan students also found that a student without access to home internet earned significantly lower grades — 0.6 lower, on the 4.0 scale — than his or her connected classmates. A different study using Census Bureau data estimated that individuals with greater access to a computer and the internet at home spent 28 percent more hours learning than those without such access. As this evidence on home connectivity piles up, there should be no debate: Students without access to high-speed internet at home are seriously disadvantaged compared to their better-connected classmates.

Fortunately, during the pandemic, the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) — which Congress created in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act — helped close this homework gap. The ECF program included $7.17 billion for schools and libraries to distribute devices and internet services to students and educators. Thanks to the hard work of the FCC staff, the Commission quickly stood up this program and began distributing these funds. Over the past two years, the ECF has helped roughly 18 million students at 11,500 schools connect to the internet at home. The program has provided nearly 13 million connected devices and more than 8 million broadband connections to students and educators. Unfortunately, the ECF program is set to sunset at the end of June, leaving students — and schools and libraries — in a potentially dire situation: Without action, millions of low-income students could lose access to the internet at home, a devastating digital cliff that would reverse the ECF’s important achievements. The potential expiration of the Affordable Connectivity Program, which helps low-income households afford broadband, would further exacerbate this impact on disadvantaged students.

Given these stakes, we are excited that the Commission has proposed to update the ERate program to allow schools and libraries to provide Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless internet services to students and educators. This proposal properly recognizes that learning now extends beyond the physical premises of school buildings. When a sixth grader is completing a homework assignment through an online educational platform or a ninth grader is attending class through a video conferencing application, they are clearly engaged in educational activities. In the Communications Act, Congress rightfully provided the FCC with the flexibility to structure and strengthen the E-Rate program as educational conditions change. With millions of students at risk of losing internet access at home, we are glad to see the FCC exercising this authority and modernizing the E-Rate program, and we encourage the Commission to provide schools and libraries with the flexibility to adapt their programs to local conditions while continuing to effectively guard against fraud and waste.

Thank you for your continued commitment to closing the digital divide.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) wrote to U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Miguel Cardona to urge the DOE to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia on college and university campuses. Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas crisis, higher education institutions have seen a precipitous rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia, including hate speech, harassment, and violence – creating an environment of fear and vulnerability for students.

“We write to express our concern about the alarming rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the United States following the recent violence in Israel and Gaza. These events have had a profound impact on our college and university campuses, where students of all backgrounds come together to learn and engage,” the senators wrote.

The letter draws attention to a few specific and recent examples of Islamophobia and antisemitism on college campuses. At Stanford University, an Arab Muslim student was the victim of a hit-and-run, where the perpetrator shouted vulgar and racist remarks during his attack. At Cornell University, a student posted violent threats online against the Jewish community, subsequently leading to his arrest. 

“In the face of these challenges, it is essential that we stand together as a nation against discrimination, xenophobia, and bigotry. Hate has no place in America, and our educational institutions play a pivotal role in ensuring that,” the senators continued. “We look forward to your continued dedication to this important issue. We are hopeful that, together, we can create a safer environment for students at our colleges and universities.”

In the letter, the senators specifically call on the DOE to:

  • expand the Antisemitism Awareness Campaign, 
  • craft an Islamophobia Awareness Campaign, 
  • conduct additional outreach to Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab student communities, and
  • provide resources to colleges and universities from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long been vocal advocates against Islamophobia and antisemitism. Earlier this week, they also sent a letter to the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Special Counsel requesting guidance on the self-expression rights of federal workers as related to the conflict and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. 

A copy of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Secretary Cardona:

We write to express our concern about the alarming rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the United States following the recent violence in Israel and Gaza. These events have had a profound impact on our college and university campuses, where students of all backgrounds come together to learn and engage.

The United States prides itself on being a nation that values diversity, inclusion, and religious freedom. Unfortunately, hate-fueled incidents targeting Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab students on our college campuses have shown that we still have much work to do to uphold these values. Incidents such as hateful rhetoric, harassment, vandalism, and threats have been reported, creating an environment of fear and vulnerability for students, many of whom have deep and personal connections to the region and the ongoing conflict.

At Stanford University, an Arab Muslim student was the victim of a hit-and-run, where the perpetrator shouted vulgar and racist remarks during his attack. At Cornell University, a student posted violent threats online against the Jewish community, subsequently leading to his arrest. Sadly, these are just a few of the startling incidents reported across the country, and we must do all we can to prevent it from growing.

We want to commend the Department of Education for the creation of the Antisemitism Awareness Campaign, which lays out a set of initiatives to ensure that all students, including Jewish students, are able to attend school free from discrimination. Recent events have highlighted the urgency and importance of continuing and expanding this campaign, which we urge you to do.  

Similarly, in following the Administration’s recent announcement to establish the first-ever National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia, we urge you to build upon that and create an Islamophobia Awareness Campaign for educational institutions. Through this effort, it is critical to acknowledge that Islamophobia also hurts those who are not of the Muslim faith. Individuals perceived to be Muslim, such as members of the Christian Arab and Sikh community, have unfortunately experienced the pain of anti-Muslim hate.

As you work to combat these various acts of hate, we also ask you to expand outreach to Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab student communities. This outreach should aim to address the specific concerns and challenges faced by these communities and provide a platform for support and action. By actively listening and understanding their unique concerns, we can work towards creating an environment where students feel safe, heard, and protected. 

Additionally, we were pleased to learn that the Department of Education recently issued a Dear Colleague reminding schools of their legal obligation to provide all students with a learning environment free from discrimination. This Dear Colleague included an updated discrimination complaint form, which specifies additional protections for students under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We appreciate these efforts and request that you continue to provide comprehensive information and resources from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to colleges and universities. These tools can empower educational institutions to respond effectively to and report discrimination, harassment, bias, and related incidents.

In the face of these challenges, it is essential that we stand together as a nation against discrimination, xenophobia, and bigotry. Hate has no place in America, and our educational institutions play a pivotal role in ensuring that. 

We look forward to your continued dedication to this important issue. We are hopeful that, together, we can create a safer environment for students at our colleges and universities.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $2,483,817 in federal funding for the Commonwealth to provide distance learning services for rural areas. The funding was awarded through U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grants, which provide rural communities with advanced telecommunications technology. In all, these grants will provide 197,010 Virginia students with the technology they need to take advantage of education opportunities through local colleges and universities.

“Over the past several years, we have seen the tremendous capabilities of distance learning to extend opportunities to students that have previously been limited by their geography,” said the senators. “This funding will provide 197,010 Virginia students with the technology and infrastructure they need to continue taking advantage of distance learning.”

The funding is broken down as follows:

  1. $952,388 for Germanna Community College in order to equip 10 locations throughout Spotsylvania, Stafford, Orange, Culpeper, Wise, Page, and Madison counties with video conferencing equipment. Instructors at Germanna Community College will use that technology to deliver mental health and healthcare educational courses to benefit 5,372 students;
  2. $740,793 for Lee County School District in order to equip 12 locations throughout Lee County with interactive teleconferencing equipment. Instructors at Lee County Public Schools will use that technology to deliver instructional resources, professional development courses, and mental health services to benefit 5,545 students;
  3. $475,122 for Southside Virginia Community College in order to equip six locations throughout Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Charlotte, Nottoway and Greensville counties with a synchronous interactive video conferencing system. Instructors at Southside Virginia Community College will use that technology to deliver nursing and emergency management services simulation labs, and shared college courses to benefit 2,805 students; and
  4. $315,5134 for Virginia State University in order to equip 15 locations throughout Petersburg, Roanoke, Prince George, Sussex, Dinwiddie, Henry, Southampton, Franklin, Halifax, Louisa, Brunswick, Greensville and Mecklenburg counties with integrated interactive teaching rooms at the college sites and interactive digital white boards at the high school sites. Instructors at Virginia State University will use that technology to deliver dual credit college courses to benefit 183,288 students.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to better connect rural Virginia, including through significant funding to extend broadband capabilities to every corner of the Commonwealth.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to more effectively promote educational assistance programs that would help alleviate the burden of student loan payments. Specifically, the senators are focused on efforts to make employers and employees aware of their Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free to employees’ student loans annually through 2025.

“This provision within section 127 is a win-win for employers and employees, as it provides a pathway towards student loan debt relief for borrowers and provides employers with another option to recruit and retain talent necessary to grow their businesses,” the senators wrote.

In April of this year, Sen. Warner questioned IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel on the organization’s outreach efforts regarding benefits available to borrowers. During the exchange, Commissioner Werfel committed to devoting significant efforts to making taxpayers aware of these benefits. Since then however, little progress has been made to make employers and employees aware of these programs, which would greatly reduce stress of monthly payments for borrowers and help employees retain qualified candidates.  

“During your testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on April 19, 2023, you stated that outreach on section 127, including ensuring that taxpayers are aware of such benefits, is a top priority of the agency,” the senators continued. “However, we have found that resources on educational assistance programs are difficult to locate on the IRS website. Additionally, within these hard-to-find and limited resources, the expansion of the program to include student loan debt as a qualifying tax-free educational expense is not highlighted as new information and the eligibility window is deeply buried. Furthermore, online IRS webinars have failed to adequately promote employer-provided educational assistance programs and call attention to student loan debt payments as a qualifying expense.” 

The senators requested the IRS take a series of steps to better promote these programs and ensure that employers and employees are fully aware of the benefits afforded to them, including that:

  • The IRS host and publish webinars on employer-provided educational assistance programs;
  • The IRS publish new and robust resources to aide employers seeking to take advantage of section 127 benefits;
  • And the IRS communicate expanded section 127 benefits and new resources to employers and employees, including, but not limited to, transmitting this information through IRS e-newsletters for business owners.

Created in 1978 and made permanent in 2012, section 127 of the IRS Code provides a tax benefit allowing employers to contribute up to $5,250 in tax-free annual assistance to employees pursuing continued education. In 2019, with broad bipartisan support, Sens. Warner and Thune introduced the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, legislation that extends this tax-free benefit to employees’ existing student loans. The senators played a key role in extending this provision through 2025 as part of the 2021 government spending package.  

A copy of the letter can be found here and below. 

Dear Commissioner Werfel,

We write to urge the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to take meaningful steps to effectively promote educational assistance benefits provided under section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code, specifically the temporary provision within the law that allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free towards their employees’ student loans annually. This provision within section 127 is a win-win for employers and employees, as it provides a pathway towards student loan debt relief for borrowers and provides employers with another option to recruit and retain talent necessary to grow their businesses.

Nationwide, Americans owe more than $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, outstripping credit cards and auto loans as the country’s leading source of non-housing debt. With increased college costs leading to students taking on more debt, the need for innovative solutions to ease the burden of student loan debt is greater than ever. That is why we were pleased to secure passage of our Employer Participation in Repayment Act (EPRA), which reformed educational assistance programs under section 127 to include student loans payments as a qualifying educational expense.

Prior to this change, employers with educational assistance programs could provide their employees with up to $5,250 per year in tax-free benefits for ongoing education purposes (e.g., tuition and fees). The EPRA provision that we championed as part of the CARES Act amended section 127, expanding the $5,250 tax-free, annual benefit to include student loan payments through 2020, with subsequent legislation extending this benefit through 2025. In other words, as a result of this change in the law, employers are provided with an important tool to help their employees pay down outstanding student loan debt.

The modernization of section 127 better meets the needs of today’s workforce, as it not only helps individuals pay down their student loans, but also serves as a unique tool for employers to attract and retain talented employees. Additionally, employer-sponsored student loan repayment under section 127 helps employees get out of debt faster and put more of their hard-earned paycheck towards other necessities. While we were proud to champion this necessary expansion of section 127, as its sunset date approaches we want to make sure that we are maximizing the reach of this important benefit.

According to a 2023 survey of over 4,000 participants representing independent organizations, 48% of respondents indicated that their organization provides undergraduate or graduate tuition assistance. However, only 8% of responding organizations shared that they offer student loan repayment as an educational assistance benefit. This underscores the need for the IRS to use all tools at the agency’s disposal to increase awareness among employers about recent changes to section 127. Furthermore, the IRS should take steps to ensure that employers of all sizes have resources available to them to quickly form an educational assistance program for their workforce.

During your testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on April 19, 2023, you stated that outreach on section 127, including ensuring that taxpayers are aware of such benefits, is a top priority of the agency. However, we have found that resources on educational assistance programs are difficult to locate on the IRS website. Additionally, within these hard-to-find and limited resources, the expansion of the program to include student loan debt as a qualifying tax-free educational expense is not highlighted as new information and the eligibility window is deeply buried. Furthermore, online IRS webinars have failed to adequately promote employer-provided educational assistance programs and call attention to student loan debt payments as a qualifying expense.

To ensure that employers and employees are fully aware of the benefits afforded to them under section 127, we request that you take the following actions:

1)      We request that the IRS host and publish webinars on employer-provided educational assistance programs. Webinars should provide details on student loan debt being a qualifying expense under section 127 and provide participants with the opportunity to engage in a meaningful Q&A session with IRS staff. Furthermore, webinars should be scheduled with adequate notice periods, promoted in conjunction with relevant stakeholders, including industry associations, and published prominently on the agency’s website for future reference.

2)      We request that the IRS publish new and robust resources to aide employers seeking to take advantage of section 127 benefits. These new resources should include a sample written plan for employers to utilize and the addition of a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section on employer-provided educational assistance programs to the IRS webpage. These resources should be clearly visible and prominently displayed on the IRS webpage.

3)      Finally, we ask that the IRS communicate expanded section 127 benefits and new resources to employers and employees, including, but not limited to, transmitting this information through IRS e-newsletters for business owners.

We are hopeful that by providing additional resources and informing employers and employees of section 127 benefits, we will address our shared goals of promoting workforce development, improving worker recruitment and retention, and providing much-needed student loan debt relief.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mike Braun (R-IN), along with U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), John Curtis (R-UT-03), and Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), introduced legislation to remove an unnecessary bureaucratic obstacle that currently prevents students from receiving a degree or certification they have obtained enough credits to complete. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2023 would facilitate the “reverse transferring” of college credits – the process of transferring credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution in which a student was previously enrolled in order to identify whether they have earned enough credits to receive a degree. 

Specifically, the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act to create a new exemption for sharing student education records between higher education institutions. The bill would allow a college or university to share a student’s academic records with another institution that the student previously attended under the condition that the information is sent with the goal of conferring a degree.

The legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“We should be removing barriers to higher education, not building new ones. This commonsense legislation is a no-brainer, making sure that students are granted the degrees they have rightfully earned through their coursework – no matter where it was completed,” said Sen. Warner.

“Considering the crisis of student debt weighing on our next generations, we need to make it easier for students to seek cost-effective education choices. This bill will enable students to transfer credits from 4 year institutions to community colleges,” said Sen. Braun.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to receive a quality education and pursue their career aspirations. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act helps to ensure that students can receive credit and earn an associate’s degree or short-term certificate regardless of where they completed their coursework, breaking down barriers to better-paying jobs for students. This is a meaningful step for the future,” said Rep. Neguse.

“I am pleased to join in introducing the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act. Utah is home to great schools with many students who begin their education at a community college and finish at a university,” said Rep. Curtis. “This bill will improve data sharing between higher education institutions by allowing a student to continue earning credits towards an Associate’s degree at community college, even after transferring to a university, boosting student earning potential and student retention.”

“Texas students shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get the degrees they earned,” said Rep. Castro. “The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act will help community college transfer students get better jobs and career opportunities as they work toward a bachelor’s degree. Critically, the bill will also help reduce the number of Texans who leave school with debt but no degree and send a powerful message that all education is valuable, even when life circumstances put a four-year degree out of reach.”

The National Student Clearinghouse, an educational nonprofit that verifies enrollment data, has identified over four million individuals that have completed enough credit hours at a four-year institution to be eligible for an associate’s degree, but instead withdrew without a degree or certificate. In the Commonwealth of Virginia alone, this is about 87,528 students.

The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act has the support of numerous organizations, including the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, Virginia Community College System, American Association of Community Colleges, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Institute for Higher Education Policy, among others. For a complete list, click here.

“This legislation is an important step that will enable institutions to increase learner attainment of a quality credential, which translates into better paying jobs, for millions of in individuals,” said Melanie Gottlieb, Executive Director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (AACRAO). “The additional FERPA exception proposed represents a responsible means of sharing student information between a student's 4-year and 2-year institutions in a way that both protects student privacy and supports the completion agenda.”

“Virginia’s community colleges prepare students for in-demand jobs that respond to the marketplace and employers,” said David Dore, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “The Reverse Transfer Act is a welcome approach that will benefit students from every race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic group. Communication will be facilitated, obstacles removed, and processes improved between community colleges and four-year institutions. I applaud Senator Warner and Senator Braun for their bipartisan approach in working across the aisle to advance this legislation that will increase affordability, accelerate degree completion, and lead students to upward mobility.”

Today, over 4 million students transfer from community colleges to universities but never earn a degree from either, leaving them without a credential critical to their economic futures. The Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act streamlines the transfer of university credits back to community colleges,” said Anne M. Kress, PhD, President of Northern Virginia Community College. “A common-sense approach, it counts all credits earned by students, enabling them to earn valuable associate degrees that can transform their lives and advance opportunity in their communities. Northern Virginia Community College is thankful to Senator Warner for this innovative legislation that will connect millions, including over 87,000 Virginians, to college degrees and the pathway to prosperity.

“Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) enthusiastically endorses the ‘Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act.’ This act will allow students to easily earn degrees and other credentials at community colleges by transferring credits earned at four-year institutions. Earning additional credentials makes individuals more competitive in the modern workforce,” said Dr. John A. Downey, President of Blue Ridge Community College. “Many students transfer to four-year institutions without completing their associate degrees or certificates. Offering a reverse transfer option allows us to recognize credits earned that did not initially lead to a degree, and encourage those students to become graduates of their community college. Completion will show employers that these students are lifelong learners who continue to improve their education. BRCC encourages all parties to support this important piece of legislation to improve our workforce.”

“Workforce shortages surround us, and Virginia Western Community College seeks to be a bridge between employers and our students. We encourage passage of the bipartisan Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act, which will help colleges make the process of credential attainment more accessible. By clearing a path for students to receive a college degree through reverse transfer, more people will gain the credentials required to improve their economic opportunities and simultaneously help fill their community’s workforce needs,” said Dr. Robert Sandel, President of Virginia Western Community College.

“At Germanna Community College, we believe that a skilled workforce is the cornerstone of our current and future economy,” said Dr. Shashuna Gray, Acting President, Germanna Community College. “We support the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act to ensure that students have opportunities to earn meaningful and recognized credentials that can lead to high-demand jobs or career advancement. Additionally, we know that degree attainment is good for our communities. Students with associate’s degrees are more likely to complete bachelor’s degrees. This benefits all of us.”

“Today approximately 40 million people nationwide have earned some college credits, but no degree or credential. That’s a missed opportunity for these students to boost their earnings and secure economic mobility, as well as a missed opportunity for our communities who stand to benefit from a more educated workforce and citizenry,” said Institute for Higher Education Policy President and CEO Mamie Voight. “IHEP research shows how strong partnerships between two-year and four-year colleges can help students begin their studies at one institution, then go on to earn a degree or credential at another. Innovative solutions like the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act would facilitate the scaling of reverse credit transfer between institutions and help more colleges identify degree-eligible students so they can get the credentials they have earned.”

A copy of the bill text is available here

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,599,645 in federal funding through the Augustus F. Hawkins Center of Excellence program to address teacher shortages by supporting Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) RTR teacher residency program. The funding will be used to recruit and support more teacher candidates from diverse backgrounds and provide them with the skills they need to teach in high-need schools. It will provide training and development through the Virginia Adult Literacy Resource Center (VALRC) and Multilingual Ambassador Program (MAP) to prepare teachers to support bilingual and multilingual students and provide a pathway for bilingual and multilingual adults to become teachers. The program will also offer professional development and an alumni network to retain a diverse teaching workforce. The RTR program partners with Richmond, Petersburg, Chesterfield County, and Henrico County public schools.

“As Virginia and our nation face educator shortages, it’s critical that we’re recruiting more Americans to fill these roles and providing them with the skills they need to help our students succeed,” said the senators. “We’re glad this funding will help address teacher shortages and increase diversity in the teacher workforce to better meet students’ needs, especially in such a diverse community like Central Virginia.” 

The funding was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence (Hawkins) program, which supports the establishment of centers of excellence at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) with a state-accredited teacher preparation program to help increase the number of well-prepared teachers, including teachers of color. VCU was designated an AANAPISI in 2022. The majority of students in our nation’s public schools are students of color, but the teaching workforce is only comprised of 20 percent teachers of color. 

Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to address the teacher shortage and expand diversity in the field. Kaine has introduced the PREP Act, which would address teacher and principal shortages, particularly in rural communities, and increase teacher diversity. Kaine also introduced the DIVERSIFY Act, which would strengthen the Teacher Education Assistance for College and High Education (TEACH) grant program, helping attract more teachers to the field and expand teacher diversity. Kaine has also introduced legislation to address educator shortages and increase children’s access to a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce by strengthening the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today voted to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act, legislation to ensure years of continued funding for grant programs that support fire departments and firefighters all across the Commonwealth. Today’s vote in the Senate comes as two critical funding programs near their 2024 expiration deadline.

“Virginia firefighters routinely put themselves at risk to save lives and stop catastrophe in its tracks. We are proud to have voted to continue delivering the federal dollars fire departments need to keep serving their communities. We urge our colleagues in the House to pass this bill expeditiously and send it to the President’s desk so that firefighters can count on the resources they need to stay safe and retain a solid frontline workforce,” said the Senators. 

Specifically, this legislation would reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, which provides funding to help firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards. It would also reauthorize the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, which provides funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, "front line" firefighters available in their communities.

Since 2015, more than 253 AFG grants and 72 SAFER grants have been awarded to communities throughout the Commonwealth, with Virginia fire departments receiving more than 8 million dollars from these programs in this year alone.

So far, in 2023, the following localities have received funding through the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) grant program:

  • Isle of Wight County received $959,020
  • The City of Alexandria received $600,000
  • The City of Lynchburg received $830,636
  • Franklin County received $438,238
  • The Bland County Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. received $163,476
  • The Scruggs Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Inc. in Franklin County received $66,666

So far, in 2023, the following localities have received funding through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program:

  • The City of Manassas Park received $3,582,866
  • Rappahannock County received $561,617
  • Goochland County received $556,972
  • The Town of Chatham received $204,804
  • Hanover County received $41,800 
  • Stephens City Fire And Rescue Company, Inc. in Frederick County received $21,068

This legislation, passed by the Senate, will now head to the House of Representatives.

 

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WASHINGTON –U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) joined Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA-07), Representative Zach Nunn (R-IA-03) reintroduced the Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act, legislation to strengthen cybersecurity at America’s K-12 schools by promoting access to information, better tracking cyberattacks nationally, and providing new cybersecurity resources.

“As cyberattacks continue to expose private information and disrupt infrastructure across industries, including in education, with increased frequency, we must ensure that schools are in the best position possible to prevent and respond to attacks,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will put in place necessary procedures to protect our students’ data and keep sensitive information private.”

“Cyberattacks continue to grow in size, frequency, and complexity in critical U.S. institutions, including in America’s schools,” said Sen. Blackburn. “We must ensure that our education sector is equipped to address these threats and keep students’ personal information private. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation will improve the cybersecurity tracking system for schools and provide them with necessary training resources and best practices for prevention.”

“From ransomware to data breaches, cyberattacks targeting our K-12 schools are growing increasingly sophisticated and common, necessitating a robust response to keep our students and teachers safe,” said Rep. Matsui. “Cybercriminals are rapidly evolving their strategies to cause chaos and disruption, yet a lack of resources for our schools is forcing them to do more with less. The Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act would establish a crucial roadmap to prepare our K-12 cyberinfrastructure for future attacks.”

“When I was working on the White House’s National Security Council, I witnessed firsthand how important it is to prioritize cybersecurity. With these crimes on the rise, it’s imperative that we provide our schools with the tools to keep students’ information secure,” said Rep. Nunn. “In the wake of the ransomware incident in January, I’m proud to work across the aisle to ensure our schools have the resources and training they need to protect students.”

Cyberattacks targeting schools are increasing in frequency and severity. These attacks have threatened students’ privacy and caused harmful classroom disruptions. According to the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, from 2016-2021 there were over 1,300 publicly disclosed cyber incidents involving education organizations across all 50 states. These cyber incidents included ransomware, data breaches, and denial-of service attacks, among others.

 

Last September, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the MultiState Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) released a Cybersecurity Advisory outlining the significant cyber threat facing K-12 institutions, noting certain cybercriminals are “disproportionately targeting the education sector with ransomware attacks,” and that they anticipated increases in such attacks. As schools continue to expand the use of digital platforms to engage students, the Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act provides additional resources to address cyber threats and protect personal information.

Specifically this bill:

  • Directs the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director to establish a Cybersecurity Information Exchange to disseminate information, best practices, and grant opportunities to improve cybersecurity.
  • Establishes a Cybersecurity Incident Registry within CISA to track incidents of cyberattacks on elementary and secondary schools. Information submitted to the Registry is strictly voluntary and will help improve data collection to coordinate activities related to the nationwide monitoring of the incidence and financial impact of cyberattacks.
  • Directs CISA to establish the K-12 Cybersecurity Technology Improvement Program to be administered through an information and analysis organization to deploy cybersecurity capabilities that will help address cybersecurity risks and threats to information systems of K-12 schools. This approach will capitalize on the existing services and expertise of organizations like MS-ISAC & others to ensure maximum impact of funds. The bill authorizes $10 million per year for FYs ‘24 & ‘25 to fund the Technology Improvement Program.

Full text of the Enhancing K-12 Cybersecurity Act is available here.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $9,685,734 in federal funding to support the expansion of broadband at three Virginia Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Awarded through the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, this funding will allow Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, and Virginia Union University to improve existing internet networks and provide workforce development opportunities to students and surrounding communities. 

“High-speed internet is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a need-to-have, particularly at our institutions of higher ed,” the Senators said. “This funding for Norfolk State, Virginia State, and Virginia Union represents strong steps towards closing the digital divide, developing a tech savvy workforce, and improving connectivity at three of Virginia’s HBCUs and in their surrounding communities.”

The funding is distributed as follows:

  • $3,898,789 for Norfolk State University to improve fiber connection on campus, create workforce development opportunities in STEM, IT, and cybersecurity careers, and provide off-site internet-focused training for students and local community members. These projects will leverage partnerships with Norfolk City Schools and local churches to expand job readiness for students of all ages and citizens of Norfolk.
  • $2,987,765 for Virginia Union University to improve wireless connectivity on campus, hire additional IT staff, and offer digital skills development opportunities for prioritized students, faculty, and community members. 
  • $2,799,180 for Virginia State University to upgrade and install fiber optic cable, purchase laptops to distribute to freshmen, and implement a community coding initiative for K-12 students in the Ettrick-Petersburg region.

The Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program is a $268 million competitive grant program available to expand internet access and train information technology personnel at HBCUs, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The funding was originally authorized by the government spending bill and COVID-19 relief package that was negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by Sen. Kaine.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought to expand access to broadband in Virginia. During negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure law, Sen. Warner secured $65 billion in funding to help deploy broadband and decrease costs associated with connecting to the internet. As part of that funding, Virginia recently received $5 million to help make a strategic plan to deploy coverage. Sen. Warner also recently introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to ensure broadband investments are not considered taxable income.

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WASHINGTON –– Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) were joined by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Chris Coons (D-DE) in reintroducing the ISA Student Protection Act to support an innovative financing tool for students pursuing postsecondary education. The bipartisan bill would protect students by applying strong consumer protections to Income Share Agreements (ISAs).

ISAs provide opportunities for students to make plans for financing higher education based on their future income and job success. Under an ISA, a student agrees to pay a percentage of their income over a given time period in exchange for tuition payments from nongovernmental sources. When the agreed timeframe ends, the student stops payments regardless of whether the full amount has been paid back.

 “Income-Share Agreements are a promising way to finance postsecondary education and an attractive alternative to high-interest student loans,” said Sen. Warner. “There are students across the country who are already benefitting from ISAs and deserve the safeguards and certainty the ISA Student Protection Act of 2022 would provide.”

“Hoosiers should not be forced to make a choice between a quality education and an affordable one. In the midst of record-high inflation, many students and families continue to face financial hardship and an increase in student loan debt,” said Sen. Young. “With the appropriate safeguards, ISAs can be an innovative, debt-free financing option for Hoosier students. Our bipartisan bill works to strengthen the framework for ISAs, enabling both colleges and career and technical schools to prepare students for success in the workforce without burdening taxpayers.”

 “Everything is more expensive these days, especially the cost of a college degree. This common sense bill creates a debt-free financing option for students,” said Sen. Rubio.

“Income Share Agreements are a useful alternative for some students who need financing for postsecondary education and training, especially when federal student aid is not available. The ISA Student Protection Act of 2023 would establish guardrails to protect these students as they begin their careers while creating legal certainty for providers who develop these innovative financial offerings,” said Sen. Coons. “With trillions of dollars in U.S. student loan debt burdening the country’s workforce, I’m glad to move forward on bipartisan legislation to strengthen additional financing options for students who are preparing for success.”

Specifically, The ISA Student Protection Act of 2023 would:

  1. Prohibit ISA providers from entering into agreements with students that require payments higher than 20 percent of income.
  2. Exempt individuals from making payments towards their ISA when their income falls below an affordability threshold.
  3. Set a maximum number of payments and limits payment obligation to the end of a fixed window.
  4. Set a minimum number of voluntary payment relief pauses, during which payment obligations may be suspended.
  5. Require detailed disclosures to students who are considering entering into an ISA, including the amount financed, the payment calculation method, the number of payments expected, the length of the agreement, and how their payments under the ISA would compare to payments under a comparable loan.
  6. Provide strong bankruptcy protection for ISA recipients by omitting the higher “undue hardship” standard for discharge required under private loans.
  7. Prevents funders from accelerating an ISA in default.
  8. Ensure that ISA obligations cease in the event of death or total and permanent disability.
  9. Apply federal consumer protection laws (e.g., Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Military Lending Act, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act) to ISAs.
  10. Give the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulatory authority over ISAs.
  11. Clarify the tax treatment of ISA contributions for both funders and recipients.

“Without legislative and regulatory certainty, Income Share Agreements will not be widely available at scale as an alternative to high interest rate parent plus or personal loans,” said Mung Chiang, President of Purdue University. “We commend Sen. Young and the bipartisan Senate sponsors introducing legislation today and encourage prompt consideration to provide the framework necessary to expand this student-friendly option as soon as possible."

“The cost of higher education and workforce training has skyrocketed and has become a significant obstacle to economic advancement,” said Maria Flynn, CEO of Jobs for the Future. “JFF applauds Senators Warner and Young for introducing the ISA Student Protection Act, which would support the exploration of income share agreements (ISAs) as an alternative model for financing higher education and training. JFF recognizes the need to protect against any possible risks with ISAs, which is why we are pleased to see that this legislation would provide clear definitions, parameters, and consumer protections for students.”

“Student Freedom Initiative has issued 176 Income Contingent Alternatives to Parent PLUS and private loans to junior and senior STEM students at Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and over 300 students have applied,” said Mark Brown, Executive Director of Student Freedom Initiative. “Disbursements total just over $1.75M with an average disbursement of $13,672 per student. Sixty-three percent of HBCU students use Parent PLUS loans which default at five times the rate as similar instruments and the debt is held twice as long. We must invest in these students and not strap their parents with debt they cannot reasonably pay. Issuing conventional loans to families of limited means, some already in poverty, is unethical. Student Freedom Initiative strongly supports providing students, especially those living at or below the poverty level, with innovative solutions to financing their higher education, and we hope Congress will provide sensible regulations and legal certainty to those engaged in this effort.”

“The ISA Student Protection Act is a significant step forward in shaping the promising ISA model into a safe, sustainable, student-centric source of funding for workforce training,” said Peter Callstrom, President and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership. “This legislation will empower entrepreneurial and innovative agencies like ours to continue exploring how ISAs can expand the reach and impact of talent development strategies.”

“The ISA Student Protection Act of 2023, introduced by Senators Warner and Young, will help create more accessible, affordable and accountable financing options for postsecondary education and training,” said Taylor Maag, Director of Workforce Development Policy for Progressive Policy Institute. “PPI has long supported Income-Share Agreements as a bold and innovative model for higher education financing and we applaud this effort to expand postsecondary opportunities for today’s students, while ensuring the necessary protections for their success.”

“Well-designed ISA programs open up support for student underserved in the current system, and they do so in a way that is affordable and aligned to students' educational and career success,” said Kevin James, Founder and CEO of Better Future Forward. “To ensure all students are protected and can benefit from these options, we need a strong, well-designed consumer protection framework built around the risk-sharing nature of ISAs. This bipartisan legislation is a strong step forward in that regard, and we commend Sens. Young, Warner, Coons, and Rubio for their work on it.”

“Stride Funding was built to improve educational access, career success, and economic mobility for all Americans. As tuition costs continue to rise, the cost of the American Dream has become inaccessible for millions of students, with economically disadvantaged students particularly handicapped due to standard student loan borrowing requirements tied to family economic status and credit background,” said Tess Michaels, Founder and CEP of Stride Funding. “Without innovation, all students have been left with limited access to affordable and flexible education funding and our most vulnerable students have been altogether denied pathways to educational programs that deliver real career value.  We congratulate and thank Senators Young, Warner, Coons, and Rubio for their leadership in crossing party lines to sponsor the ISA Student Protection Act of 2023 – ensuring that future generations gain access to more transparent, equitable, and accessible education funding through Income Share Agreements.”

Full text of the legislation is available here.

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) cosponsored bipartisan legislation led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and a number of their Senate colleagues to address hazing incidents on college campuses. Since 2000, there have been more than 50 hazing-related deaths on America’s college campuses, including that of Adam Oakes, a Virginia Commonwealth University student who died in a fraternity hazing incident.

“Parents who send their kids off to college never imagine that their child may be injured, seriously impaired, or killed by the actions of their friends or peers. Unfortunately, this has been the reality for too many families, including the family of 19-year-old Adam Oakes, who died in a hazing incident at VCU last year,” said the Senators. “We owe it to parents and students to pass this legislation to provide transparency and accountability around these incidents, as well as education on the dangers and life-long consequences of hazing.”

The Report and Educate About Campus Hazing (REACH) Act would require hazing incidents to be reported as part of a college’s annual crime report and establish a definition of hazing to clarify what constitutes a reportable offense. The legislation would also require institutions to establish a campus-wide, research-based program to educate students about the dangers of hazing.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $6,999,632 in federal funding for the Hampton Roads Community Action Program and Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley to provide training and career counseling services to incarcerated individuals so that they are prepared for employment opportunities and able to successfully transition into the workforce following their release.

“By expanding employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated Virginians, we can help them successfully transition back into the community, reduce recidivism, and strengthen our neighborhoods,” said the senators. “This federal funding will help individuals find employment and stay on the right track.”

The funding is distributed as follows:

  • $3,999,633 for the Hampton Roads Community Action Program, Inc. in Newport News
  • $2,999,999 for Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley, Inc. in Roanoke

The grants were awarded through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA)’s Pathway Homes program, which works to improve employability outcomes for adults during the reentry process from incarceration. 

In 2018, Warner and Kaine voted to pass the First Step Actwhich reauthorized grant funding for state and local reentry programs that reduce recidivism. In 2015, Warner and Kaine successfully urged President Obama to “ban the box” on federal job applications to help expand job opportunities and reduce recidivism among ex-offenders. “Ban the Box” refers to the section on job application forms that inquired whether the applicant has ever been convicted.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) re-introduced the Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act, which would provide nursing home operators with access to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) – a national criminal background check system. This move would give employers greater ability to screen and vet potential employees to ensure that caregivers do not have a history that would endanger the seniors they are employed to look after. Sens. Warner and Scott first introduced this legislation 2019.

“Our seniors are owed compassionate, qualified caregivers as they age and depend more and more on professional assistance,” Sen. Warner said. “This legislation will provide senior living facilities with the tools they need to hire experienced staff and to continue to meet the high demand for workers without sacrificing quality care.”

“South Carolina is home to around 200 skilled nursing facilities that serve thousands of individuals in their golden years,” Sen. Scott said. “At zero cost to taxpayers, this bill will help ensure these facilities hire the best candidates, improving the quality of care for seniors across the nation.” 

Currently, senior living facilities are not authorized to use the NPDB and instead must rely on state-level criminal background checks that can often omit key details about an employee’s background.

Additionally, the bipartisan legislation amends overly restrictive regulations that bar certain senior living facilities from conducting training programs for in-house Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) – individuals who assist patients with their daily activities – for a two-year period after a care facility is found to have deficiencies, such as poor conditions or patient safety violations.

Under existing regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), senior living facilities that receive a civil monetary penalty (CMP) over $10,000 are automatically prohibited from conducting CNA staff training programs for a period of two years.

Specifically, the legislation would allow a senior living facility to reinstate its CNA training program if:

  • The facility has corrected the deficiency for which the CMP was assessed;
  • The deficiency for which the CMP was assessed did not result in an immediate risk to patient safety and is not the result of patient harm resulting from abuse or neglect;
  • And the facility has not received a repeat deficiency related to direct patient harm in the preceding two year period;

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the need for nursing assistants and orderlies to care for the growing aging population is projected to rise 8 percent from 2020 to 2030. With this growing need for caregivers, in-house CNA education at senior living facilities often helps meet the need for CNAs. However, the existing two-year lockout period can make it more difficult for senior care facilities to properly train new employees and retrain existing staff.

“We commend Senators Warner and Scott for reintroducing this important legislation at this critical moment for the long term care workforce. In the midst of a historic labor crisis, we need solutions like the Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act to help nursing homes vet and train crucially needed caregivers. By allowing facilities the ability to offer CNA training programs and access to the National Practitioner Data Bank, we can ensure our nation’s seniors receive high quality care delivered by highly-trained and dedicated caregivers,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, said.

“Our nation’s long-term care system is facing a dire workforce shortage that has only intensified in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO, LeadingAge, said. “CNAs provide essential care in nursing homes across the country, and we need strong training programs to ensure older adults have access to critical long-term care services.  Without workers, there is no care, which is why every possible lever to build the direct care workforce must be pulled. LeadingAge applauds Senator Warner and Senator Scott for championing this much-needed legislation to address the nurse aide training lockout. We pledge to work with them to get this bill passed.”

“I started my career as a CNA in a facility training program. I know how important it is to keep this pathway for hands-on training open to ensure we have caregivers for seniors,” Derrick Kendall, Chairman of Virginia Health Care Association – Virginia Center for Assisted Living (VHCA-VCAL) and President & CEO of Lucy Corr of Chesterfield, said. “The demand for CNAs has never been greater, so it’s time to end this barrier to training more, especially when a facility has addressed the reason for the lockout.”

“Having access to the National Practitioner Data Bank would be extremely beneficial for us. It would help prevent bad actors from hopping from state to state,” Melissa Green, Chief Clinical Officer of Trio Health Care, LLC, Hot Springs, VA and a nursing home operator who has facilities close to neighboring states said. She cites an incident when it was revealed that an employee had stolen an identity to work as a nurse—without access to the NPDB there was no way to know the actual nurse’s identity was stolen even though the nursing home completed the required background checks.

“LeadingAge Virginia applauds Senators Mark Warner and Tim Scott for introducing legislation that will enable training of certified nursing assistants (CNAs),” Melissa Andrews, President and CEO of LeadingAge Virginia, said. “A ‘CNA Training Lockout’ runs counter to a nursing home’s ability to provide the highest quality of care that their residents rightly deserve, and we appreciate the senators for introducing legislation that enables our dedicated professional caregivers to care for older Virginians adequately and properly.”

“Now, more than ever, the senior living care field depends on trained professional caregivers like certified nursing assistants to help deliver high-quality services and supports to our residents,” Joan Thomas, chief operating officer at Birmingham Green, Manassas, VA, and a member of the LeadingAge Virginia Board of Directors, said. “We know our residents thrive when they have the support and care of a well-trained staff, and we appreciate this legislation that allows us to give our certified nursing assistants the best tools and training they need to do their jobs.”

Full text of the bill is available here

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $6,236,161 in federal funding for 15 Virginia schools for Upward Bound programs. Upward Bound, administered through the Department of Education, provides support to low-income and first-generation high school students in order to increase high school and college graduation rates.

“All students deserve access to the resources they need to succeed,” the senators said. “This funding for Upward Bound programs will support low-income and first-generation students through high school and help them prepare for higher education. This represents another critical investment in leveling the playing field so that more students have the tools to reach their goals and get ready for life after high school.”

The funding will be awarded as follows:

Patrick Henry Community College will receive $312,480 for programs including tutoring, mentoring, and a summer bridge program. It will serve 68 students in Martinsville as well as Henry and Patrick Counties.

Norfolk State University will receive $297,485 for programs aimed at increasing students’ GPAs, standardized test scores, and retention and graduation rates. It will serve 60 students in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Virginia Tech will receive a total of $1,146,350 for programs including financial aid application assistance, Pell Grant education, and course selection. It will serve 223 students across Southwest Virginia.

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise will receive $427,133 for programs including tutoring, information on financial aid and alternative education programs, and college application support. It will serve 80 students across Southwest Virginia.

Virginia State University will receive $451,377 for academic and summer residential programs. It will serve 88 students across the cities of Hopewell and Petersburg, as well as the counties of Dinwiddie, Greensville, and Sussex, and the Matoaca District of Chesterfield.

James Madison University will receive $287,537 for programs including personal advising, college and cultural immersion experiences, and FAFSA education. It will serve 60 students across Northern Virginia.

Portsmouth Public Schools will receive $297,601 for programs including an Individualized Educational Success Plan (IESP) for every recruited student. It will serve 60 students from I.C. Norcom and Manor High Schools.

Paul D. Camp Community College will receive $290,714 for programs including supporting dual enrollment opportunities. It will continue serving Franklin, Lakeland, and Southampton High Schools.

Southwest Virginia Community College will receive a total of $685,387 for initiatives including a Summer Discovery Program, study skills and time management workshops, and college and financial aid seminars. It will serve a total of 132 students across Grundy, Hurley, Twin Valley, Council, Castlewood, Honaker, and Lebanon High Schools.

Hampton University will receive $297,599 for programs including SAT/ACT preparation workshops, financial literacy seminars, and tutoring. It will serve 60 students across Newport News.

Virginia Union University will receive $444,616 for programs including Saturday supplementary education, summer residential components, and Individualized Academic Plan creation. It will serve 85 students across Armstrong, George Wythe, Huguenot, John Marshall, and Thomas Jefferson High Schools.

Rappahannock Community College will receive $287,537 for programs including tutoring, counseling, cultural enrichment, and mentoring. It will serve 60 students from Essex County, Lancaster County, and Washington and Lee High Schools.

Wytheville Community College will receive $297,601 for programs including service-learning opportunities, post-graduation bridge programs, and Wellness Wednesday workshops. It will serve 57 students across Southwest Virginia.

Old Dominion University will receive $400,571 for programs including after-school tutoring, an intensive summer bridge experience, and college tours. It will serve 77 students across Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Virginia Highlands Community College will receive $312,173 for programs including a Summer Academy, career advising and counseling, and cultural and social enrichment programs. It will serve 65 students from Chilhowie, Northwood, Holston, Patrick Henry, and Virginia High Schools.

This funding follows advocacy by both Sens. Warner and Kaine to increase funding for all TRIO programs – including Upward Bound – in a letter to leadership of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations last year.

 

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WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded House passage of their bipartisan legislation to commemorate historic sites that catalyzed litigation leading to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The bill, which unanimously passed the Senate earlier this month, now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The legislation will expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas and designate National Park Service (NPS) Affiliated Areas in Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Specifically, it will recognize the Moton Museum, formerly the Robert Russa Moton High School, in Farmville, Virginia, where Barbara Johns led a protest against school segregation and demanded better conditions for Black students. This designation would help protect the site.

The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka transformed the United States, overruling Plessy v. Ferguson and striking down school segregation as unconstitutional. The Brown decision was a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

“Seventy-one years after Barbara Johns led a protest against school segregation at Moton High School in Farmville, we’re thrilled that our legislation to commemorate the Moton Museum and other historic sites associated with Brown v. Board of Education is headed to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “We’re proud to help preserve this history and recognize stories of courageous Americans who fought for justice and equality.”

The creation of NPS Affiliated Areas in Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education case and an expansion of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to include the related sites in South Carolina provides an opportunity for these sites to tell their own under-recognized histories of the Brown v. Board of Education case.

In collaboration with local partners and other stakeholders, the National Trust will continue its work to bring recognition to communities that fought for school integration and make connections between communities engaged in the fight for educational equity, past and present.

The legislation was crafted in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In the Senate, the bill was led by U.S. Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and supported by U.S. Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Tom Carper (D-DE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Roger Marshall (R-KS).

Sens. Warner and Kaine were also proud to secure $500,000 in dedicated funding for critical facility upgrades at the Moton Museum in Farmville through the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, and supported efforts to honor Barbara Johns as one of Virginia’s two statues in the United States Capitol.

The bill text is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) reintroduced legislation to give low- and moderate-income workers more access to lifelong learning opportunities. The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would establish a tax-preferred savings account with a generous government match to support workers looking to retrain or develop new skills throughout their careers.

In the coming years, more workers will be required to learn new skills throughout their careers. A National Academies of Sciences report focused on information technology and the U.S. workforce recently stressed the need to prepare individuals for the changing labor market. Due to automation, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that up to a third of the U.S. workforce will need to learn new skills or find new work in new occupations by 2030. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 87 percent of workers believe training and developing new job skills throughout their work life is essential to succeed in the workplace. The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would give workers a tool to access that training by providing them with a portable, government-matched savings vehicle for lifelong learning.

“Access to lifelong learning and education is a critical tool that workers need to succeed in today’s economy. Therefore, it is essential for the federal government to support Americans’ ability to retrain and upskill throughout their career,” said Sen. Warner. “This is a no-brainer investment that would help workers continue to expand their skillsets and grow their earning potential. It would also help employers who need skilled workers to fill those jobs, particularly in a competitive labor market.”

“By strengthening access to skills training and fostering a culture of lifelong learning, we can support American workers while ensuring we have a workforce ready to fill the jobs of tomorrow,” said Sen. Coons. “That’s why I’m proud to partner with my colleague Senator Warner to invest in our future with this needed investment, and make available the growth and retraining we know will be vital in a competitive, global economy.”

“Small business owners often struggle to find skilled workers, which has become even more challenging during this competitive labor market,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority. “In fact, Small Business Majority's scientific opinion polling found more than one-third of small employers said it is difficult to find candidates with the right education, skills or training. Since small firms rarely have enough time to dedicate to extensive staff training or sufficient funds to pay for employee education, the Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would be a huge boost to small businesses by offering them another way to invest in the development of their staff. This legislation would also help solo entrepreneurs invest in their own development and acquire skills without the aid of an employer.”

The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act creates employee-owned Lifelong Learning and Training Account (LLTA) savings plans. Contributions to an LLTA by low- and moderate-income workers or their employers would be eligible for a dollar-for-dollar federal match of up to $1,000. Under this legislation, the federal matching funds would be directly deposited into the LLTA immediately after a contribution by the worker or employer. The worker would then get to choose how to use the LLTA funds, which could be applied towards any training that leads to a recognized post-secondary credential.

For workers that need to contribute to the cost of updating their job skills, this significant federal investment can make a huge difference in whether or not these workers seek additional training. If employers are willing to match employees’ savings, the returns can be even greater—a $500 contribution by a worker would create $2,000 in training opportunities (a $500 match by the employer, and then a $1,000 match from the federal government.) The accounts are portable from job to job, and always under workers’ control.

Contributions by workers and employers are after-tax dollars, but face no additional taxes on earnings if the LLTA funds are used for qualified training expenses. Eligibility is for workers age 25 to 60, with incomes of up to $82,000 per worker. States will manage the accounts. Accounts are designed to encourage the worker to use the funds to regularly update their skills, rather than build up large balances over many years. Restrictions are put in place to ensure that the government’s matching dollars go only to qualified training expenses.

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of a bipartisan resolution condemning a recent series of bomb threats at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and reaffirming the government’s commitment to combatting violence against students, faculty, and staff. The resolution was led by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Tim Scott (R-SC) and passed unanimously in the Senate.

Since January, the FBI has reported 44 bomb threats to HBCUs, including at Norfolk State University and Hampton University.

“The unanimous passage of this resolution underscores the strong condemnation of recent threats against HBCUs and need to conduct thorough investigations to hold perpetrators accountable,” said the Senators. “We’ll continue to help HBCUs access federal resources to keep their campuses safe, and we remain committed to combatting hate and violence.”

Warner and Kaine are longtime advocates of HBCUs. Kaine successfully pushed to pass legislation he cosponsored called the HBCU Propelling Agency Relationships Towards a New Era of Results for Students (PARTNERS) Act, which strengthens partnerships between federal agencies and HBCUs. Warner successfully pushed to promote defense research at HBCUs in the most recent defense authorization bill which included a version of his Building Equitable Access to Contribute to Our National Security (BEACON) Act.

Joining Coons, Scott, Warner, and Kaine in cosigning the resolution were Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Braun (R-IN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

The resolution text is available here.  

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the below statement on the bomb threats against historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs):

“I am deeply disturbed by the bomb threats that have been made against more than a dozen historically Black colleges and universities. These acts of attempted terror, issued as we enter Black History Month, underscore the alarming reality that racially-motivated violence and extremism is on the rise across the country. Although at this time no explosive devices have been found, FBI and their local law enforcement partners are taking these hate crimes extremely seriously. As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have requested and expect to receive a briefing at the appropriate time, and I remain committed to combatting extremism and hate violence in all of its forms.”

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that the Senate-passed FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report includes a version of their bipartisan Building Equitable Access to Contribute to Our National Security (BEACON) Act, legislation to expand Department of Defense (DoD) research funding opportunities for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Institutions (MIs). This includes Central State University and Wilberforce University in Ohio, and Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg in Virginia. The Department funds basic research at institutions of higher education and this legislation would ensure HBCU students get the resources and research opportunities to succeed in STEM and other related careers. Brown and Warner filed a modified version of the BEACON Act as an amendment during Senate consideration of the NDAA. The House included a version of the BEACON Act in the NDAA and the FY22 NDAA Conference Report retained a similar provision. The House-Senate NDAA conference report now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“This legislation will help tap into the enormous potential of Virginia’s five Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which for too long received a disproportionally small portion of our nation’s defense research funding,” said Warner. “I’m proud to have fought for this provision, which will strengthen the STEM pipeline at our HBCUs and help ensure that these institutions can access the resources they need to bolster critical defense research.”

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Wilberforce and Central State in Ohio, are a critical part of our nation’s higher education system and provide important research opportunities for students traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers,” said Brown. “This funding will widen the talent pool and help elevate partnerships between the Department of Defense and these institutions for years to come.” 

Defense research is a vital source of innovation and a financial resource for our nation’s universities, which received over $4.6 billion from the Department of Defense in science and engineering funding in 2018. Yet, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) received only $21 million – less than a half percent, of that funding. These disparities continue while Black individuals are underrepresented in the STEM labor force by 53% and despite the fact HBCUs are a proven pipeline for diverse STEM talent, graduating 20 percent of all African American college students and nearly 30 percent of all African American STEM professionals.

An interim report from NASEM found that “limited set aside dollars and no requirements or incentives to increase their participation in non-targeted programs, [congressional] encouragement has not translated into significant capacity-building or sustained support.” The report further found that “new funding streams may be necessary to expand opportunities to HBCU/MIs” and “mutually beneficial partnerships may serve as a strategy for HBCU/MIs to build and better utilize their current capacity to conduct DoD-funded research.”

Specifically, the amendment would:

  • Require the Department of Defense to establish a plan to elevate a consortium of HBCUs/MIs, assess their ability to participate and compete in engineering, research, and development activities, and report this plan to Congress.
  • Give DoD the authority to establish a grant program to build out HBCU defense research capacity, including developing the workforce and research infrastructure and improving the capability to retain research faculty and staff. 
  • Increase partnerships between federally funded research development centers, University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), and HBCUs/MIs. 

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WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner & Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined a bicameral letter led by Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi urging the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to address student voter registration and participation as it formulates higher education rulemaking. The letter comes as states across the country pass legislation designed to curb the voting rights of Black, Brown, and young people.

“Across the country, voting rights are under attack, and new laws restricting access to voting have been transparently intended to discourage students and people of color from participating in our elections. The Department can and should play a significant role in supporting democracy by creating additional nonpartisan opportunities for students to register to vote, keep their voter registration up to date, and participate in state and federal elections,” wrote the lawmakers.

“Participating in our democracy is consistent with the goals of federal financial aid, and the Department should take swift action to support access to voter registration and voting for students in this rulemaking process. Thank you for your attention to our request,” concluded the lawmakers.

Kaine, a former civil rights attorney, has long fought to protect voting rights and expand access to the ballot box. In September, Kaine introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation cosponsored by Warner to improve access to the ballot for Americans, advance commonsense election integrity reforms, and protect our democracy from attacks. The Freedom to Vote Act elevates the voices of American voters by ending partisan gerrymandering and helping to eliminate the undue influence of secret money in our elections.

In October, Warner and Kaine helped introduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act legislation to restore the landmark Voting Rights Act and stop the spread of voter suppression.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Secretary Cardona:

We write to urge the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) to address student voter registration and participation in upcoming rulemaking for higher education accountability and to provide additional guidance to institutions of higher education to facilitate civic engagement.

Across the country, voting rights are under attack, and new laws restricting access to voting have been transparently intended to discourage students and people of color from participating in our elections. The Department can and should play a significant role in supporting democracy by creating additional nonpartisan opportunities for students to register to vote, keep their voter registration up to date, and participate in state and federal elections.

Section 487(a)(23) of the Higher Education Act requires each institution of higher education that receives federal financial aid funds to make a “good faith effort” to distribute voter registration materials and to make such materials “widely available” to students. A college’s good faith effort to distribute voter registration information widely should reflect the most common methods by which individuals register to vote— including, increasingly, online registration—and the deadlines they must meet.

The Department has full authority to prescribe regulations to enforce the program participation agreement in Section 487(a)(23). In early 2022, as part of the upcoming institutional accountability rulemaking, the Department should propose regulations that specify the time, manner, and frequency by which voter registration materials are distributed to students.

Importantly, at least once per year, as part of the course registration or other institutional enrollment process, the rules should require institutions to distribute to student’s voter registration information, including, where possible, a direct and accessible web link to register to vote or to update their voter registration (such as providing a new address). The rules should also recommend institutions distribute voter registration materials to students during other interactions many students will have with institutions, such as student identification application processes. While the regulations should prioritize online voter registration options to ensure an easy and accessible process for students, they should also accommodate institutions in states that do not conduct online voter registration.

The Department should also swiftly issue sub-regulatory guidance that clarifies institutions’ responsibilities under current regulations. This guidance should remind colleges of their existing requirement to distribute voter registration information to students well in advance of state deadlines to register to vote. And, such guidance should strongly encourage institutions to adopt best practices for providing links to voter registration online and through direct notifications to students, including links during course registration and campus-wide email reminders. These reminders should also encourage students to check and update their voter registration information to ensure the most recent address is on file and explain current law on where students may register to vote based on their permanent residence. Finally, the guidance should make clear that Federal Work-Study funds can be used for nonpartisan voter registration, education, engagement, and poll watching activities—and can help institutions meet their community service requirements.

Participating in our democracy is consistent with the goals of federal financial aid, and the Department should take swift action to support access to voter registration and voting for students in this rulemaking process. Thank you for your attention to our request.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded two grants totaling $2,966,029 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded to Southwest Virginia to strengthen the region’s workforce development initiatives and outdoor recreation economy. The first is a $1,466,029 grant awarded to the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge for the development of workforce training opportunities to help individuals in the region gain key skills for good jobs. The second is a $1,500,000 grant awarded to Russell County for the "Building an Outdoor Recreation Economy in Southwest Virginia" project that will help support increased tourism in the region and create jobs.

“We’re glad to see these grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission go toward education, job training, and economic development opportunities in Southwest Virginia,” the Sens. said. “We will continue to champion policies that create jobs, grow our economy, and provide greater opportunities for families across the Commonwealth."

The grant awarded to Dabney S. Lancaster Community College will go toward the Appalachian Hardwood Training Initiative (AHTI) and will develop training opportunities for people working in sawmills and wood manufacturing facilities throughout the ARC region, as well as underemployed individuals in the region. Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. members have identified key skills needed by the industry to address current gaps. The program aims to train workers to improve their skills and get jobs.

The grant awarded to Russell County, Virginia will go toward the "Building an Outdoor Recreation Economy in Southwest Virginia" project, which will involve the construction of the Three Rivers Destination Center (TRDC) in the middle of Virginia's coalfield region and serve as a hub to grow tourism in Southwest Virginia. The grant will create 16 new jobs and support $1.4 million in increased revenues for the area's businesses and government. The TRDC will highlight the area's recreational assets, help visitors plan trips, and connect tourists with regional amenities and businesses. The center will be located close to the Clinch River State Park, the Jefferson National Forest, Breaks Interstate Park, and other recreational amenities. The center will also serve as headquarters for area tourism organizations, which promote the 600+ regional tourism assets responsible for employing over 1,900 people with a payroll of $40 million throughout the 7-county region. The investment will help support increased tourism and spending, promote entrepreneurship, and help address the negative economic impacts from the downturn of the coal industry.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded $49,943,399.02 in federal funding to date from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. The funding is committed for schools and libraries across the Commonwealth to help expand access to internet connectivity for learning, and close the Homework Gap for students who currently lack internet access. Earlier this year, Congress authorized the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The $49 million in funding has been issued in three waves since late September – with the latest wave being issued this week. 

“We’re proud to see these federal dollars go toward keeping Virginia’s communities connected. This investment will help close the digital divide, while improving access to job opportunities and educational resources for Virginians as we continue to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” said the Senators.

A detailed breakdown of the funding can be found here.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long been strong supporters of expanding broadband access in Virginia. In August, they voted to pass the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a comprehensive infrastructure package that delivers wins to communities across the Commonwealth, including at least $100 million to expand broadband across the Commonwealth. Under the bill, 1,908,000 or 23% of people in Virginia will be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, which will help low-income families afford internet access. Last year, Warner and Kaine introduced the Emergency Educational Connections Act, legislation to help ensure adequate home internet connectivity for K-12 students during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, a member of the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the Senate Budget Committee reintroduced the School Infrastructure Modernization Act, legislation to help modernize schools in Virginia and across the nation. This bill would adjust the current federal historic rehabilitation tax credit to make school buildings that continue to operate as schools eligible for the credit. Under current law, the credit only applies to buildings renovated to serve a different function than before. This bill would waive this ‘prior use’ clause for school renovation projects, allowing school districts with aging infrastructure and tight budgets to partner with private entities to finance renovations that the districts otherwise would not be able to afford. Older schools can often be renovated for less money than the cost of new construction. Representative Dwight Evans (D-PA-3) introduced companion legislation on the House side.

While Mayor of Richmond, Kaine led a coalition to utilize the historic tax credit to finance the renovation of a closed public school and reopen it as the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the need to ensure our schools are modern and safe learning environments,” said the Senators. “By modernizing schools, we can help more students learn, support local economies with construction jobs, and maintain the character of these historic institutions.”

The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program has played a role in rehabilitating historic structures and revitalizing communities for more than 35 years. In the Commonwealth alone, the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HTC) has helped restore more than 1,200 structures since 1997. According to a June report from the Virginia Department of Education, over half of all schools in Virginia—more than 1,000 schools—are at least 50 years old.

Earlier this month, Kaine joined Representative Evans on a letter calling for the inclusion of this legislation in the final Build Back Better bill. The legislation was included in the latest House Ways and Means Committee draft of the Build Back Better bill. In March, Kaine joined Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in introducing the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, legislation that would build on Kaine and Warner’s bill by investing $130 billion over ten years to modernize K-12 classrooms across the country and help schools upgrade their physical and digital infrastructure. 

To see full text of the School Infrastructure Modernization Act, please click here.

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Tim Scott (R-SC) today introduced the Teacher and School LEADERS Act, which would reform Teacher Quality Partnership Grants to better support school leaders and allow for greater innovation in educator preparation.

“Investing in professional development supports and empowers educators and makes them better teachers. I am proud to reintroduce legislation that invests in the future of our children,” Sen. Warner said.

“Strong school leaders can have an outsized impact on the quality of education for our students, especially in high-needs school districts,” Sen. Cornyn said. “It’s important that educators have access to grant programs to further their impact in our local schools, and I’m proud to partner with my colleagues on this legislation.”

“Educators work tirelessly in Colorado and across the country to support our kids, and this past year has been especially challenging,” said Sen. Bennet. “Our legislation invests in flexible, high-quality training programs for our nation’s educators to use innovative tools and approaches in the classroom. Now more than ever, teachers and school leaders deserve to have access to the training and support they need to grow their careers and support their students."

“We owe a debt of gratitude to our nation’s teachers and school leaders who have given so much to the next generation—even in the midst of a pandemic,” said Sen Tim Scott. “As someone who struggled in school, I am living proof that a few devoted teachers can change the trajectory of a kid’s life. By providing high-quality teacher and leadership preparation programs, the Teacher and School LEADERS Act will ensure more of our educators have the tools they need to lead the next generation with excellence.”

Background:

The Teacher and School LEADERS Act would reform Title II of the Higher Education Act to expand the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant program. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Expand the program to provide training to educators who aspire to fill leadership roles in high-need schools.
  • Provide grant applicants and recipients greater flexibility over who they can partner with for preparation programs by removing restrictions requiring them to partner with an Institution of Higher Education to qualify.

The Teacher and School LEADERS Act is supported by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, the American Psychological Association, Knowledge Alliance, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Leading Educators, the National Science Teaching Association, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, New Leaders, Teach For America, and Third Way.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $4,123,765 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education for five of the Commonwealth’s higher education institutions to help them prepare and respond to COVID-19.  The grants can be used in various ways, including resuming operations, supporting students, reducing disease transmission, and developing more agile instructional delivery models for students who can’t attend in-person class. 

“We are pleased to see these federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan go toward helping the Commonwealth’s higher education institutions recover from the effects of the past year,” said the Senators. “We will continue working to ensure Virginia institutions have the resources they need to continue serving their students.” 

This funding was awarded through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which Senators Warner and Kaine voted to pass in March. The legislation included significant funding to help Virginia’s colleges and universities respond to COVID-19.

A breakdown of the funding is below:

  • Norfolk State University in Norfolk will receive $1,952,775
  • Ferrum College in Ferrum will receive $390,542
  • Institute for Psychological Sciences (Divine Mercy University) in Sterling will receive $180,966
  • Rappahannock Community College will receive $1,536,345
  • Appalachian School of Law in Grundy will receive $63,137

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Kaine has been a strong advocate for students amid the pandemic. Last year, Kaine introduced the Coronavirus Relief Flexibility for Students and Institutions Act to fix several implementation issues with the higher education emergency relief fund in the CARES Act by providing institutions of higher education and students with the increased flexibility Congress intended.  

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