Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $2,901,726 in rural development funding to further distance learning and telemedicine at Ballad Health, Carilion Medical Center, Retina and Vitreous Center, P.C., and the Lee County School District in Jonesville, VA. This funding was awarded through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.

“Staying connected has never been as important as it is during the COVID-19 pandemic when Virginians are increasingly reliant on broadband internet to safely access medical care and keep up with their education,” said the Senators. “That is why we are thrilled to see these grants go to boosting distance learning and telehealth services at the Mountain States Health Alliance, Carilion Medical Center, Retina and Vitreous Center, P.C. in Norfolk, and the Lee County School District.” 

The funding will be awarded as below:

  • $313,361 for Ballad Health to support a "School-Based Telemedicine Virtual Health Clinic" program to improve healthcare availability to underserved children in Lee and Smyth counties. The program improves access to acute sick care for school children and faculty and removes transportation as an obstacle to care. This rural investment will benefit approximately 46,765 residents across both Virginia and Tennessee.  
  • $752,857 for Lee County School District to implement Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) courses and facilitate meetups with in-the-field STEM professionals. This will also give students in alternative education programs the opportunity to attend their classes in real-time, enable teachers to access quality professional development synchronously without incurring travel and time costs, and provide students and the community access to telecounseling services such as preventative substance-abuse education. This rural investment will benefit approximately 4,590 residents.
  • $947,983 for Carilion Medical Center located in Roanoke, VA, to enable patient access to high-quality primary and specialty care services in 14 counties and six independent cities located in Southwest Virginia, Southside, Roanoke, and the Shenandoah Valley, by expanding and optimizing an existing telemedicine network. Project equipment will include telemedicine carts (for the provision of teleneurology), peripherals to facilitate patients’ physical examinations by transmitting audiovisual information to remote physicians (for use in the proposed virtual care centers), and portable examination and vital sign devices. This rural investment will benefit approximately 200,000 residents.
  • $887,525 for Retina and Vitreous Center, P.C. in Norfolk, VA, to purchase telehealth equipment required to provide diagnostic and treatment services to patients with diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, eye tumors, and ocular oncology, among other specialties. The system in each clinic will include live interactive videoconferencing hardware and software, a digital stethoscope, a specialized hand-held exam and diagnostics camera, and a variety of lens options. This rural investment will benefit approximately 3,762 residents. 

The USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for rural communities and health care access in the Commonwealth. In 2018, the Senators saw through the passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, which included a provision by Sen. Warner to expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment. Earlier this year, the Senators introduced legislation to help ensure adequate home internet connectivity for K-12 students. In response to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Sen. Warner has also introduced comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet for all Americans, as well as legislation to promote broadband in underserved areas. Last year, Sen. Warner  introduced legislation – cosponsored by Sen. Kaine – to expand telehealth services through Medicare, make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors, and help cut costs for patients and providers. Sen. Kaine also introduced legislation in 2019 to expand health care to rural areas through telehealth. The bill passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as part of the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $19,013,614 from the U.S. Department of Labor for two career and training centers for seniors in Arlington, VA.

“These investments will enhance on-the-job training programs and provide seniors who are currently out of work with an opportunity to earn a paycheck and learn new skills, making them better-qualified candidates for future employment,” said the Senators.

The funding will be awarded as follows:

  • $17,431,229 for the National Council on Aging, Inc in Arlington, VA.
  • $1,582,385 for the National Older Worker Career Center in Arlington, VA.

The funding is made available through the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). SCSEP is a community service and work-based job training program for older Americans. Authorized by the Older Americans Act, the program provides training for low-income, unemployed seniors, to give them the skills they need to re-enter the workforce. Additionally, SCSEP participants will have access to employment assistance through American Job Centers.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $17,735,349.43 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education to Hampton University to establish the Virginia Workforce Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (VWIEC), a statewide small business incubator project. This grant will expand the capability and capacity of Virginia’s current and aspiring entrepreneurs to aid with economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re pleased that these federal dollars will assist Hampton University in continuing to serve their students in the face of the current health and economic crisis,” said the Senators. “Historically Black Colleges and Universities help provide a first-rate education for so many students from traditionally underserved communities. We will continue to advocate for them as they support their students during this ongoing crisis.”

This grant was awarded through the Department of Education’s Education Stabilization Fund, which seeks to provide support to state educational agencies in addressing the specific educational needs of students, parents, and teachers in elementary and secondary schools, and higher education institutions. Sens. Warner and Kaine are strong supporters of Virginia’s HBCUs. Last year, the Senators successfully pushed to get the FUTURE Act signed into law to restore $255 million in federal funding for these critical institutions. They also secured $93 million in critical funding to strengthen HBCUs as part of the December government spending deal.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today urged the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on companies’ increased use of subcontracted and contingent workers for work that used to be performed by direct employees. This leads to the creation of ‘fissured workplaces’ – environments where primary employers outsource “non-core” business functions to subcontracted firms but still maintain tight control over the outcomes of those subcontractors. This has primarily affected occupations in payroll, accounting, janitorial services, facilities maintenance, security, food preparation, among others.

In a letter, the Senators pressed Comptroller General Gene Dodaro for more information to better understand how companies’ efforts to cut costs are affecting the long term resiliency and stability of workers, and how this trend is affecting the U.S. workforce and its paths for upward mobility. 

“We suspect that fissured workplaces could be leading to an erosion of the American social contract. Employers’ use of contract and contingent workers, including subcontracted workers, independent contractors, and temporary workers, has likely contributed to the decline in employer-sponsored training,  and led to ambiguity in terms of who is responsible for providing workplace protections and who must be at the bargaining table when workers form a union,” wrote the Senators. “The implications for fewer benefits for contract workers are far reaching: for example, studies in multiple states find that temp workers experienced twice the rate of injury as permanent workers perhaps due to the fact that they are nearly twice as likely as permanent workers to have never received safety training.”

“The rise of the fissured workplace may also partially explain the significant decline in the large firm wage premium,” they continued. “Researchers find that this change is largely a consequence of large firms with over 1000 employees no longer paying above market salaries to their workers.  What’s more, others note that this decline has occurred exclusively for those at the lower and middle of the wage distribution, with no change in the wage premium for higher income earners.”

Currently, public companies are only required to report the number of full-time workers to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but are not required to report the number of contract or contingent workers, making it difficult for lawmakers to understand the extent to which public companies are now relying on these workers in order to save costs. 

This lack of public knowledge is concerning, given the benefit and wage disparities that exist between contingent workers and company employees.

“We know that fissured workplaces can lead to compensation penalties for workers in certain subcontracted occupations. For example, by the year 2000, 45% of janitors and over 70% of security guards worked as subcontractors instead of in-house employees.  While studying this phenomenon, researchers found that contracted janitors earned about 15% less than in-house janitors and, similarly, contracted security guards earned 17% less than in-house guards.  This trend is troubling and all the more important following the onset of the COVID-19 crisis – clean and safe places of work are essential and all workers are worthy of fair and competitive compensation,” the Senators noted. “Current research suggests that workers in standard work arrangements are 10% more likely to have access to health insurance than independent contractors.  That same research suggests that over 46% of full-time employees have access to a retirement plan, while only 2.3% of independent contractors and 38.3% of workers provided by a contract firm do. “

In their letter, the Senators also expressed concern about the rise in hiring of contract and contingent workers for particularly vulnerable occupations and tasks. They specifically highlighted social media companies’ high rates of reliance on these workers for work that could have significant long-term mental health consequences such as content moderation – the process of reviewing user content for adherence to company policy, a process that entails viewing disturbing online content like graphic violence, sexual predation and assault, child pornography, or other traumatic content. 

In order to understand the prevalence and address the impacts of fissured workplaces in the economy, the Senators posed the following questions for Comptroller General Dodaro:

  1. Since 1980, to what extent have companies increased their use of temporary workers, subcontracted workers, independent contractors, and franchises for work that was typically done by direct employees? Is this use of alternative work arrangements typically permanent or long-term?  

  2. What are the demographic characteristics of contract and contingent workers by sector? Are there any sectors in which these employment shifts have been the most pronounced? If so, what are the most common business justifications given for the use of these alternative work arrangements in those sectors and how do those justifications compare across sectors?  

  3. How do the pay, benefits, schedules, access to workforce training opportunities, and job security of employees in these different work arrangements compare to the pay, benefits, schedules, access to workforce training opportunities, and job security of employees that are direct employees of the companies? How have these differences changed over time and to what extent have they contributed to reduced paths to upward mobility in the American economy?

  4. For contingent workers at large employers, how long do typical contingent workers work in each “gig” and how long does it typically take workers to find another “gig”? Are there typically pathways for workers who are temporary staff, subcontracted, or independent contractors to become full-time, direct employees of the companies? 

  5. What are the estimated business savings to a company who uses temporary workers, subcontracted workers, and independent contractors?
  1. What are the long-term effects of contingent work in areas such as content moderation on workers’ future employment, psychological well-being, and physical health and does this work create costs or externalities borne by state, local, or federal governments? What are some potential long-term consequences for economic security for workers in contract and contingent work arrangements?

  2. Are there comprehensive federally available data to track companies’ use of alternative work arrangements? If so, what are the data sets, how often are the data collected, how comprehensive are the data sets, and what gaps remain?  Does GAO have any policy recommendations for improving data collection on these employment trends?

  3. What private data are available to track these trends?

  4. In the technology sector, please use any private data, including private data provided by companies in that sector, to provide additional analysis of the use of these alternative work arrangements and assessment on the impact to employees’ pay, benefits, schedules, and job security. Additionally, to what extent do workers take on contract-based work with a hiring preference for full-time direct employment and an expectation that contract-based work will turn into a direct employee opportunity? 

  5. Have these types of workers faced any additional economic hurdles brought about by COVID-19, such as greater likelihood of being laid off, furloughed, or reduced access to benefits, including employer-provided health insurance?

Sen. Warner has been an outspoken advocate of investing in workers and ensuring they are adequately equipped to participate in the 21st century labor force. Earlier this year, he called on the SEC to establish an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Task Force following a GAO report that revealed investors pursue reporting of non-financial indicators covering a company’s environmental, social, and governance practices. The report was a direct result of Sen. Warner’s efforts to get more details on the extent to which firms currently report on ESG issues, and whether Congress and the SEC should act to require such disclosures. 

Last year, the SEC announced a proposed Regulation S-K rule following advocacy by Sen. Warner, who previously urged the Commission to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management. Sen. Warner has also sent a letter requesting that the SEC require companies to disclose specific metrics in addition to human capital resources, measures, and objectives. In May, Sen. Warner along with U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA) urged the SEC to require that human capital management information is made publicly available in a timely and accurate manner to help determine whether a company will be successfully able to weather risks following the COVID-19 crisis – a critical issue for investors and the overall economy.  

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

 

Dear Mr. Dodaro:            

In the past several decades, large companies have faced increased pressure from short-term oriented shareholders and executives to cut costs and increase efficiency. As the onset of the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated, this focus on hyper efficiency has come at the cost of long term resiliency for many. David Weil at Brandeis University notes that companies have – in many cases – responded to short-term pressures by increasingly focusing on “core business” functions, outsourcing competencies perceived as less essential or valuable to subcontractors.[i] In practice, this meant that certain tasks and occupations in payroll, accounting, janitorial services, facilities maintenance, security, food preparation, and others, would no longer be done or performed by in-house employees of the company. Instead, these tasks might still be completed by workers in the same building as core company employees, but – in reality – their compensation and benefits would be provided by a subcontractor. This type of arrangement is known as a “fissured workplace” – an environment where a primary employer outsources non-core business functions to subcontracted firms but still maintains tight control over the outcomes of those subcontractors.[ii] It has been the subject of many articles over the years, most notably Neil Irwin’s in the New York Times titled, “To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now,” outlining the stark differences in paths for upward mobility between a janitor at Kodak in the 1980s and a janitor at Apple today.[iii] 

We know that fissured workplaces can lead to compensation penalties for workers in certain subcontracted occupations. For example, by the year 2000, 45% of janitors and over 70% of security guards worked as subcontractors instead of in-house employees.[iv] While studying this phenomenon, researchers found that contracted janitors earned about 15% less than in-house janitors and, similarly, contracted security guards earned 17% less than in-house guards.[v] This trend is troubling and all the more important following the onset of the COVID-19 crisis – clean and safe places of work are essential and all workers are worthy of fair and competitive compensation. We should know more about the extent to which this disparity in compensation is prevalent in other subcontracted occupations and across sectors.  

 We suspect that fissured workplaces could be leading to an erosion of the American social contract. Employers’ use of contract and contingent workers, including subcontracted workers, independent contractors, and temporary workers, has likely contributed to the decline in employer-sponsored training,[vi] and led to ambiguity in terms of who is responsible for providing workplace protections and who must be at the bargaining table when workers form a union. Current research suggests that workers in standard work arrangements are 10% more likely to have access to health insurance than independent contractors.[vii] That same research suggests that over 46% of full-time employees have access to a retirement plan, while only 2.3% of independent contractors and 38.3% of workers provided by a contract firm do.[viii][ix] Additional reports from the National Employment Law Project suggest that the differences are stark for certain types of contract and contingent workers: potentially only 12.8% of temporary help agency workers, 28.2% of on-call workers, and 41.3% of workers provided by contract firms have access to employer-provided health insurance compared to a majority of direct employees.[x] The implications for fewer benefits for contract workers are far reaching: for example, studies in multiple states find that temp workers experienced twice the rate of injury as permanent workers perhaps due to the fact that they are nearly twice as likely as permanent workers to have never received safety training.[xi]

The rise of the fissured workplace may also partially explain the significant decline in the large firm wage premium. For most of the 20th century, large firms paid higher wages than smaller firms, even after controlling for the quality of the worker, across many countries.[xii] In fact, they were an important way to mitigate labor market wage inequality – less-educated workers received a higher wage premium from working for large firms than more-educated workers.[xiii] In the past few decades, however, the average worker earnings premium for a large firm has fallen from 47% in 1980 to 20% in 2013.[xiv] Researchers find that this change is largely a consequence of large firms with over 1000 employees no longer paying above market salaries to their workers.[xv] What’s more, others note that this decline has occurred exclusively for those at the lower and middle of the wage distribution, with no change in the wage premium for higher income earners.[xvi] We don’t know why this is occurring, but researchers suggest this may be a result of changing norms[xvii] around acceptable compensation for workers at the lower end of the wage distribution and fissured workplaces.[xviii] Since large firms are not required to disclose information about workers that are not considered employees, it is possible that the large firm wage premium is even lower than what scholars have found.

Increasingly, essential functions routinely completed by full-time employees are being relegated to contract and contingent work. Companies such as Google rely on lower-paid contractors even for software development.[xix]According to investigative reports and accounts from those with access to internal company databases, the total number of contractors at Google outnumbered direct employees in 2018.[xx] Those same reports suggest that, in some cases, those lower-paid contractors were performing work often indistinguishable from functions completed by direct employees[xxi] without access to the same benefits and compensation. Contractors are also reportedly prevalent at other tech giants, such as Apple, Facebook, and YouTube, similarly without access to the same worker benefits as traditional employees.

While reports indicate that tasks typically associated with skilled labor, such as programming, are increasingly going to contractors, technology companies frequently seem to hire contract and contingent workers for particularly vulnerable occupations and tasks. At social media companies, reports find that contract workers are used at high rates for content moderation – the process of reviewing user content for adherence to company policy, which entails viewing disturbing online content that can include graphic violence, sexual predation and assault, child pornography, or other traumatic content.[xxii] These positions frequently involve repetitive tasks, queue- and rate-based decision-making, and daily quotas.[xxiii] While this type of work could have significant long-term mental health consequences, there are reports that moderators are often required to sign a non-disclosure agreement that prevents them from seeking outside counseling.[xxiv] Similar to other types of subcontracted workers in other industries, reports find that content moderators suffer a wage penalty and lack the employment benefits of their in-house counterparts.[xxv] At Facebook, for example, starting salary for a content moderator is only 14% of the median full-time employee salary.[xxvi]

Understanding the full extent of the fissured workplace is a difficult task. Though public companies are required to report the number of full-time workers to the Securities and Exchange Commission, they are not currently required to report the number of contract or contingent workers. Often in household surveys, workers will incorrectly classify themselves as employees of the primary firm when, in reality, they work for a subcontractor or as independent contractors.[xxvii] This misunderstanding may help partially explain why scholars note an increase in self-employment through tax filings data while standard measures of self-identification in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ surveys have not seen an increase in contract or contingent work.[xxviii]

For policymakers to address the impacts of fissured workplaces in the economy, we need to understand how prevalent the situation is for American workers. For example, research suggests that Black and Hispanic workers are overrepresented in contract-based work, [xxix] which could have economic ramifications for upward mobility and financial security. To more thoroughly study the fissured workplace, scholars call for marrying business transaction data with worker data.[xxx] Current conservative estimates suggest around 19% of the private sector workforce operates in industries with fissured workplaces.[xxxi]Estimates that include industries with mixed use of practices could double this figure, which would suggest that working in fissured workplaces is more common today than being a member of a union was at its peak of 34% in 1956.[xxxii]

In light of these issues, we would like GAO to report on the following:

  1. Since 1980, to what extent have companies increased their use of temporary workers, subcontracted workers, independent contractors, and franchises for work that was typically done by direct employees? Is this use of alternative work arrangements typically permanent or long-term?  
  2. What are the demographic characteristics of contract and contingent workers by sector? Are there any sectors in which these employment shifts have been the most pronounced? If so, what are the most common business justifications given for the use of these alternative work arrangements in those sectors and how do those justifications compare across sectors?  
  3. How do the pay, benefits, schedules, access to workforce training opportunities, and job security of employees in these different work arrangements compare to the pay, benefits, schedules, access to workforce training opportunities, and job security of employees that are direct employees of the companies? How have these differences changed over time and to what extent have they contributed to reduced paths to upward mobility in the American economy?
  4. For contingent workers at large employers, how long do typical contingent workers work in each “gig” and how long does it typically take workers to find another “gig”? Are there typically pathways for workers who are temporary staff, subcontracted, or independent contractors to become full-time, direct employees of the companies? 
  5. What are the estimated business savings to a company who uses temporary workers, subcontracted workers, and independent contractors? 
  1. What are the long-term effects of contingent work in areas such as content moderation on workers’ future employment, psychological well-being, and physical health and does this work create costs or externalities borne by state, local, or federal governments? What are some potential long-term consequences for economic security for workers in contract and contingent work arrangements?
  2. Are there comprehensive federally available data to track companies’ use of alternative work arrangements? If so, what are the data sets, how often are the data collected, how comprehensive are the data sets, and what gaps remain?  Does GAO have any policy recommendations for improving data collection on these employment trends?
  3. What private data are available to track these trends?
  4. In the technology sector, please use any private data, including private data provided by companies in that sector, to provide additional analysis of the use of these alternative work arrangements and assessment on the impact to employees’ pay, benefits, schedules, and job security. Additionally, to what extent do workers take on contract-based work with a hiring preference for full-time direct employment and an expectation that contract-based work will turn into a direct employee opportunity? 
  5. Have these types of workers faced any additional economic hurdles brought about by COVID-19, such as greater likelihood of being laid off, furloughed, or reduced access to benefits, including employer-provided health insurance?

Sincerely,

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 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Chris Coons and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn to introduce legislation to honor and commemorate the historic sites that contributed to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The bill would recognize the importance of the additional sites that catalyzed litigation in Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., -- including the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville – by designating them as National Park Service (NPS) Affiliated Areas and expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas. The legislation was crafted in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Tom Carper (D-DE).

“On April 23, 1951, a 16-year-old Barbara Johns led a walkout of students at the Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, to protest school segregation and poor education conditions. The student-led strike in Virginia and the subsequent lawsuit became one of the five cases combined into Brown v. Board of Education.  As our country continues to grapple with the need to reckon with our past and present, it is more important than ever to highlight those Americans who time and time again have stood up and pulled our nation towards progress,” said Senator Warner. “I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan bill to expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site and recognize the vital role played by the Moton School in Farmville in ending school segregation.”

“I am proud to join this bipartisan bill to honor and protect historic sites connected to Brown v. Board of Education—a watershed case in our nation’s progress toward equality for all,” said Senator Kaine. “One of the sites that will benefit is the Moton Museum, former home of the Moton School, where Barbara Johns led a protest over the intolerable conditions for Black students. It’s so important that we preserve these sites for all to reflect on the sacrifice and patriotism of leaders like Johns, Spottswood Robinson, and Oliver Hill.” 

“The Robert R. Moton Museum is excited to join with communities involved in the historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. In seeking to become an affiliated area of the National Park Service, we know this affiliation will allow us the opportunity to better collaborate with other communities involved in the historic Brown decision as we work to ensure that countless individuals have the opportunity to know of the courage and sacrifice that citizens made towards equality in education,” said Cameron D. Patterson, Executive Director of the Robert R. Moton Museum. “The Moton Museum Board of Trustees, Moton Museum Community Council, and our partner institution Longwood University in offering their support towards this effort, recognize that the resources and benefits offered from this affiliation with the National Park Service will only strengthen our ability to fulfill our mission as a museum.”

The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was described by constitutional scholar Louis H. Pollak as “probably the most important American government act of any kind since the Emancipation Proclamation.” The Brown decision transformed the United States, striking down the separate-but-equal doctrine established by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896The Plessy decision was the linchpin that condoned and entrenched legalized segregation across the South despite liberty and equality protections clearly stated in the U.S. Constitution and underscored by the 14th and 15th Amendments.   

These laws stayed in placed for nearly 100 years after Reconstruction, but pioneering civil rights lawyers Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, William Hastie, Constance Baker Motley, Louis Lorenzo Redding, and others challenged the constitutionality of segregation and won. The Brown decision ended the practice of legalized segregation in educational facilities and was a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.  

The history of Brown v. Board of Education is represented in our national consciousness by a single building, Monroe School, which is a National Historic Site located in Topeka, Kansas. This limited geographic scope condenses public memory of these events and inadvertently fails to recognize the contributions of the other communities in Claymont, Delaware; Hockessin, Delaware; Wilmington, Delaware; Summerton, South Carolina; Farmville, Virginia; and the District of Columbia that were also important to the fight for equality and that saw their cases consolidated with the Brown case. The geographic dispersion of these locations demonstrates that Brown v. Board of Education is truly a story of a national struggle with national significance.

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 uplifting, under-recognized stories of students, parents, and their allies who helped shape American society. 

Enactment of this legislation has the potential to appropriately recognize the sites associated with the other four court cases and help them to combine current uses with preservation and public education.  In collaboration with local partners and other stakeholders, the National Trust will continue their collective work to bring recognition to communities that fought for school integration, helping these sites to tell their own history of the Brown v. Board of Education case and make connections to other communities engaged in the fight for educational equity, past and present.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), former technology entrepreneur and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today raised alarm regarding the need to protect education infrastructure from cyber-attacks following a ransomware incident at Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school system in Virginia.

In a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Sen. Warner urged the U.S. Department of Education to develop guidance and disseminate best practices for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education and to work with school districts to develop a comprehensive, risk-based funding request from Congress. 

“A ransomware attack on a school system in normal times can be disruptive and costly; in the context of a global public health emergency, with unprecedented reliance on remote learning, it is debilitating,” wrote Sen. Warner. “Sophisticated cyber-attacks and more opportunistic forms of malware, like ransomware, are widespread today and require sustained vigilance. Defending against these persistent attacks requires a consistent and holistic approach. The public sector is particularly at risk given constrained state and local budgets.” 

“I recommend providing schools with guidance that includes awareness campaigns, risk management, threat mitigation, cybersecurity posture reviews, and resiliency. Awareness campaigns for both educators and students can focus on the importance of recognizing threats, such as phishing attacks, ransomware, malware, and social engineering methods. Regular evaluations can determine the effectiveness of awareness campaigns to address any gaps. Threat mitigation includes developing sufficient safeguards to ensure data security and access control,” he continued. “Detection capabilities are also needed to continuously monitor for anomalies and cybersecurity events. Schools should review these capabilities, plus their readiness to respond and recover from attacks. For example, tabletop exercises can validate processes and test procedures used before, during, and after an attack. Cyber resiliency ensures systems have an ability to continue operating in case of attack, while full restoration takes place. Many of these objectives will require new funding from Congress, particularly in the wake of the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on school system budgets.”

Fairfax County Public Schools, which serves nearly 200,000 students and employs over 24,000 employees, was recently the target of a ransomware attack that involved the theft of protected information.

In his letter, Sen. Warner pressed Sec. DeVos to work to adapt available cybersecurity guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to school systems. Stressing the need for robust cybersecurity education, Sen. Warner also pushed Sec. DeVos to disseminate best practices to states and localities seeking to teach cybersecurity in the K-12 setting.

Additionally, Sen. Warner urged the Department of Education to work with educators, industry, and CISA to encourage a consortium or Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) for K-12 schools to exchange cybersecurity threat information and best practices for defense that are tailored to account for capabilities and constraints of K-12 schools. 

Sen. Warner, a former technology executive, is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, he has fought for increased cybersecurity measures as Americans have increasingly relied on internet connectivity for remote work, health, and education purposes. Among other measures, Sen. Warner has recently advocated for increased funding to modernize federal information technology, urged internet networking device vendors to ensure the security of their products, and pressed cybersecurity officials to take bolster defenses against cybersecurity attacks. He has also introduced legislation to set strong and enforceable privacy and data security rights for health information as tech companies and public health agencies deploy contact tracing apps and digital monitoring tools to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The letter is available here and text can be found below.

 

Dear Secretary DeVos: 

I write to you about the need for effective cybersecurity in the context of our nation’s K-12 education system. As COVID-19 has placed a strong emphasis on remote learning throughout the United States, this new normal also highlights the heightened need to protect education infrastructure from cyber-attacks, provide measurable standards, and ensure educators are equipped to manage cybersecurity risk. 

Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools, a local school division with nearly 200,000 students and over 24,000 employees, was recently the target of a cyber and ransom attack that included theft of protected information. While an investigation proceeds, the incident in Fairfax County demonstrates the need for schools to be prepared with cybersecurity defenses and resilience. A ransomware attack on a school system in normal times can be disruptive and costly; in the context of a global public health emergency, with unprecedented reliance on remote learning, it is debilitating.

Sophisticated cyber-attacks and more opportunistic forms of malware, like ransomware, are widespread today and require sustained vigilance. Defending against these persistent attacks requires a consistent and holistic approach. The public sector is particularly at risk given constrained state and local budgets. It is too late to wait for a cyber-attack before taking action to ensure school systems and personal data is secure and available. 

I urge the U.S. Department of Education to develop baseline cybersecurity standards for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education and to work with school districts to develop a risk-based and comprehensive appropriations request for FY2022. Many school districts do not currently have sufficient guidance to implement an effective cybersecurity program. Fortunately, there is cybersecurity guidance available that could be tailored for education. Existing cybersecurity frameworks, such as National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance, can be adapted and applied for our school systems. We have seen a range of sectors develop customized Framework Profiles that tailor the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to the particular risks, resources, and circumstances of a particular sector.

I recommend providing schools with guidance that includes awareness campaigns, risk management, threat mitigation, cybersecurity posture reviews, and resiliency. Awareness campaigns for both educators and students can focus on the importance of recognizing threats, such as phishing attacks, ransomware, malware, and social engineering methods. Regular evaluations can determine the effectiveness of awareness campaigns to address any gaps. Threat mitigation includes developing sufficient safeguards to ensure data security and access control. Detection capabilities are also needed to continuously monitor for anomalies and cybersecurity events. Schools should review these capabilities, plus their readiness to respond and recover from attacks. For example, tabletop exercises can validate processes and test procedures used before, during, and after an attack. Cyber resiliency ensures systems have an ability to continue operating in case of attack, while full restoration takes place. Many of these objectives will require new funding from Congress, particularly in the wake of the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on school system budgets.

In addition to protecting school infrastructure, I urge you to develop guidance and disseminate best practices to states and localities seeking to teach cybersecurity in the K-12 setting. For example, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission recommends that the U.S. Government promote professional development programs to model safe, secure, and privacy-aware internet practices in classrooms. The Commission also recommends incorporating effective digital literacy curricula in American classrooms at the K-12 level and beyond, including critical thinking and problem solving skills.  

Finally, I urge the Department of Education to work with educators, industry, and CISA to encourage a consortium or Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) for K-12 schools to exchange cybersecurity threat information and best practices for defense. Such an organization could be a counterpart to the existing Research and Education Networks ISAC that focuses on higher education. Because K-12 schools have very different missions and resources than higher education institutions, I would encourage particular attention to ensuring such efforts meet K-12 educators where they are – with information sharing, best practices, and action items tailored to account for capabilities and constraints of K-12 schools.

Our nation faces increasing cybersecurity threats on our infrastructure. As the recent Fairfax County Public Schools incident demonstrates, our schools need vigilant defenses from these threats, similar to private industries and government. Adversaries have shown a willingness to attack our education facilities, and schools must be proactive, attentive, and proficient at cybersecurity. While the nation confronts the COVID-19 public health emergency, an increased reliance on remote learning makes the need for effective threat defense paramount.  

Schools have a unique strategic role in our nation’s cybersecurity posture through educating students and tomorrow’s leaders of essential cybersecurity practices. I urge you to take necessary steps to ensure schools have adequate guidance to defend attacks and provide a cybersecurity education. Thank you for your consideration of these issues and your timely response.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in calling on the seven largest internet service providers (ISPs) to do their part to limit the economic and social disruption caused by COVID-19 and help ensure that children are able to meaningfully participate in their education. These letters come as unprecedented numbers of students rely on remote learning to kick off the fall semester due to the ongoing public health crisis. 

In a letter sent to the CEOs of AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the Senators called on companies to take concrete measures to suspend limits and fees associated with increased broadband use, which is needed to participate in online courses or remote work. They also called for the companies to expand coverage areas, as the public health emergency has highlighted the devastating impact of the nation’s lingering broadband gaps.

“As a new school year commences, the need to accommodate an unprecedented reliance on data services to provide education continues. We have heard from public schools who express appreciation for internet service options that enable remote learning, but are also concerned with ongoing data limitations and continued lack of service for many households,” the Senators wrote. “In many situations, online learning activities require additional data allowances beyond plans readily available for students. We kindly request that you again take immediate action to help students connect to the online resources they need to learn, including expanding coverage areas and rolling out new service plans that better meet the needs of these families.” 

“With many schools closed and students now relying on the internet to connect with their teachers, instruction materials, and assignments, sufficient data allowances are even more essential for students’ success now and throughout their future. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many parents to work from home, increasing their monthly broadband usage,” they continued. “For these crucial reasons, we ask again that you temporarily suspend data caps and associated fees or throttling for affected communities, and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost broadband options for students whose schools are closed due to COVID-19 and don’t have sufficient access at home. These options are essential for students, regardless of household billing histories. Working with school administrations to facilitate qualification for discounts based on the schools’ personal knowledge may be especially helpful. For example, students qualifying for free/discounted lunches may also prequalify for free/discounted broadband services as well.”

According to findings from a Pew Research study, the “homework gap” of students lacking reliable access to internet connectivity or a computer at home is more pronounced among Black, Hispanic and lower-income households. In addition to the toll it takes on individual students and their families, the economic cost of this gap has been identified by McKinsey and Company as having deprived the economy of at least $426 billion between 2009 and 2019.

In their letter, the Senators noted numerous complaints that have come in to their offices from parents and educators who are grappling with usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. The Senators also stated they’ve heard of families being deemed ineligible for the new services offered for low-income families due to previous missed payments. 

Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth during his tenure as Governor and during his time in the Senate. In March, Sen. Warner led 17 of his colleagues in urging major internet service providers to take steps to accommodate the incoming unprecedented reliance on telepresence services. After this effort, a number of major internet service providers announced the adoption of practices to better accommodate the use of remote technologies. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner also introduced legislation to help ensure adequate home internet connectivity for K-12 students during COVID-19. He has also pushed the FCC to ensure that millions of Americans are made aware of their eligibility for the FCC’s Lifeline program – the primary federal program charged with helping low-income families obtain broadband and telephone services. 

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

 

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires returning students across the United States to rely on remote learning and online courses, we write to ask for your assistance to help ensure students can take full advantage of essential education opportunities this fall. In March, we were thankful that your company answered our request to make a range of accommodations and service changes to help Americans shifting to unprecedented levels of online education and telework, including suspending some broadband data limits on a temporary basis. Your decisive and timely actions helped cushion the impacts to families across the nation during the spring months. 

As a new school year commences, the need to accommodate an unprecedented reliance on data services to provide education continues. We have heard from public schools who express appreciation for internet service options that enable remote learning, but are also concerned with ongoing data limitations and continued lack of service for many households. In many situations, online learning activities require additional data allowances beyond plans readily available for students. We kindly request that you again take immediate action to help students connect to the online resources they need to learn, including expanding coverage areas and rolling out new service plans that better meet the needs of these families. Unprecedented numbers of students now rely on remote access for education due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and remote education is only as effective as available internet service. 

Effective remote learning requires capable devices and adequate broadband internet access. The Pew Research Center found in March the “homework gap” of students lacking reliable access to a computer at home is a significant challenge for many students, and even more pronounced for Black, Hispanic and lower income households. With many schools closed and students now relying on the internet to connect with their teachers, instruction materials, and assignments, sufficient data allowances are even more essential for students’ success now and throughout their future. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many parents to work from home, increasing their monthly broadband usage.

Our offices have fielded numerous complaints from parents and educators frustrated by usage caps and limited bandwidth, which prevent daily video calls needed to learn and work from home. And those who have no other option find themselves buried in overage fees. In some cases, we’ve learned that eligibility for new services announced for low-income households is barred if that household has missed monthly payments in the past. These predicaments shine a light on our growing digital divide and threaten the education and subsequent futures of our students. In June, McKinsey and Co. reported that this education achievement gap limited the growth of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by at least $426 billion between 2009 and 2019. The necessary closing of schools during the public health crisis and transition to remote education has exacerbated these gaps.

For these crucial reasons, we ask again that you temporarily suspend data caps and associated fees or throttling for affected communities, and work with public school districts, colleges, and universities to provide free, or at-cost broadband options for students whose schools are closed due to COVID-19 and don’t have sufficient access at home. These options are essential for students, regardless of household billing histories. Working with school administrations to facilitate qualification for discounts based on the schools’ personal knowledge may be especially helpful. For example, students qualifying for free/discounted lunches may also prequalify for free/discounted broadband services as well. 

We look forward to promptly hearing from you about what steps you will take to help limit the economic and social disruption that COVID-19 is posing at this challenging time. We recognize that many broadband providers have experienced significant business growth since the onset of this crisis. We ask that you identify ways to give back to the communities you serve through deployment of expanded service and additional service plans and policies that respond to the concerns we’ve heard from constituents about access, affordability, and data rates.

Containing the health impact of COVID-19 will depend on observance of social distancing measures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities. But containing the economic and social impact of COVID-19 requires a whole-of-society effort. At this time of great strain on our economic and education systems, we encourage you to do everything you can to cushion the impacts on American families and students. Our offices would be happy to connect you with local education officials and administrators to facilitate this effort.

We appreciate your time and consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement today before voting against moving forward on Senator McConnell’s latest attempt to pass a “skinny” COVID-19 relief bill:

“We’re not going to vote for a half-baked relief bill, pat ourselves on the back, and call it a day while families are left out in the lurch. The two of us are ready to vote for meaningful relief for small businesses and struggling families but not for something that deprives Americans of much-needed relief while nullifying Virginia protections to keep workers safe from COVID-19. It’s time for the Senate to take up a bill that offers what this one does not: paid sick leave, emergency rental assistance, adequate public school and child care support, funding for states and localities to continue critical services while so many are out of work, and other measures to help our troubled nation.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and 27 of their colleagues in calling for a full extension of school meal waivers through the end of the 2020-2021 school year so that schools have the flexibility that they need to fully serve students whether or not they are attending school in person. 

Sens. Warner, Hassan and colleagues initially made this request in July, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it will agree to extend some of the school meal waivers.

“We are glad that you have extended some school meal waivers until the end of the 2020-2021 school year, and grateful that you recently extended some other waivers until December 31, 2020. However, we remain concerned by your decision not to extend all waivers for the entire 2020-2021 school year, and we urge you to correct this as soon as possible,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators raise the importance of full extension given that the economic and public health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will clearly last beyond the end of the calendar year.

“The remaining waivers that you have not extended for the entire 2020-2021 school year are desperately needed by school meal providers across the country to ensure they have the funding, flexibility, and certainty to continue feeding schoolchildren for the entire upcoming school year. Many localities are dealing with budget shortfalls due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are relying on federal assistance to keep providing meals,” wrote the Senators. “Furthermore, millions of parents have lost their jobs in the past six months and are struggling to ensure that their children have access to nutritious and healthy meals. Many families are relying on school provided meals as one of the only reliable sources of healthy food for their children.” 

The Senators also address why USDA already has the authority necessary to fully extend the critical waivers.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Hassan, the letter was sent by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Read the Senators’ full letter below:

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:  

Thank you for your letter dated August 20, 2020 in response to our letter dated July 29, 2020 urging you to extend all relevant school meal waivers for the entire 2020-2021 school year. We are glad that you have extended some school meal waivers until the end of the 2020-2021 school year, and grateful that you recently extended some other waivers until December 31, 2020. However, we remain concerned by your decision not to extend all waivers for the entire 2020-2021 school year, and we urge you to correct this as soon as possible. We also write to express disagreement with your conclusion that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not have the authority to extend these waivers until the end of the next school year.

In your response to our July 29th letter you wrote that the request to extend all of the relevant waivers “is beyond what USDA currently has the authority to implement.” This conclusion is based off an incorrect interpretation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Pub. L. No. 116-127) (“FFCRA”). FFCRA clearly provided USDA with the authority to issue these waivers for the 2020-2021 school year. The only constraint that Congress imposed upon USDA’s authority to issue these waivers was the requirement in Section 2202(e) that they be issued on or before September 30, 2020. Waivers issued prior to that sunset date can still cover periods after the sunset date, including the entire 2020-2021 school year.  USDA’s previous decision to extend a number of the nationwide waivers that we mentioned in our letter until the end of the 2020-2021 school year including for the food management company contract duration, local school wellness assessment, and the fresh fruit and vegetable program parent pickup requirements – and your recent decision to extend the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Seamless Summer Option (SSO), and Area Eligibility Waivers until the end of this calendar year – clearly show that USDA believes it has the authority to extend these waivers well beyond the sunset date. [1]   

The remaining waivers that you have not extended for the entire 2020-2021 school year are desperately needed by school meal providers across the country to ensure they have the funding, flexibility, and certainty to continue feeding schoolchildren for the entire upcoming school year. Many localities are dealing with budget shortfalls due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are relying on federal assistance to keep providing meals. Furthermore, millions of parents have lost their jobs in the past six months and are struggling to ensure that their children have access to nutritious and healthy meals. Many families are relying on school provided meals as one of the only reliable sources of healthy food for their children.

We urge you to reverse your decision and use the authority given to your Department under the FFCRA to extend the following waivers nationwide for the entire 2020-2021 school year: 

  • Area Eligibility Waiver
  • Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) Waivers
  • Unexpected School Closures Waiver

We recognize the incredible effort USDA has undertaken to ensure that millions of schoolchildren in this country do not go hungry. This hard work is not yet complete and we implore you to continue working with states and use USDA’s already existing authority to provide them with the flexibility needed to enable food authorities to provide meals through USDA’s child nutrition programs. For any questions, please reach out to Andres Hoyos at Andres_Hoyos@hassan.senate.gov and Tom Koester atTom_Koester@hassan.senate.gov.  We look forward to receiving your response as soon as possible on this timely matter.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Richard Blumenthal and 23 of their colleagues in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to boost its Lifeline program to keep students connected as millions return to school both virtually and in person. Since 1985, the FCC’s Lifeline program has made basic internet and telephone service more affordable for low-income Americans and has had bipartisan support. The senators strongly criticized the FCC, under Chairman Ajit Pai’s leadership, for not only failing to make access to broadband easier for families, but also for actively undermining and destabilizing the Lifeline program.

“As millions of American families face unprecedented financial pressures and educational challenges, we urge the FCC to reverse proposed changes to the Lifeline program, take immediate steps to open its assistance to more households, and ensure that its services meet the pressing needs of families during this crisis,” the Senators wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “We are alarmed that as students head back to class – in person or online – there is still no national plan from the FCC to secure families’ access to their educational future. This looming disaster is one product of the vast digital divide that hinders families’ educational futures, economic opportunities, and health, which FCC should vigorously bridge through Lifeline and other USF programs.”

“Regrettably, under your Chairmanship, the FCC has actively worked to undermine and destabilize the Lifeline program, which has left more families vulnerable during the pandemic by widening the learning gap and lessening household’s ability to access crucial services, such as unemployment benefits, food assistance, and health resources,” the Senators continued. “Since the first weeks of your tenure, the FCC has sought to block new broadband providers’ participation in the Lifeline program, curtail benefits in tribal areas, exclude existing carriers, rollback reforms for registering new carriers, make it harder for new applicants to subscribe, prevent carriers from offering free in-person distribution of phones, reduce incentives to enroll subscribers, and add more barriers for participating carriers and subscribers.” 

The senators called for the FCC to put in place a comprehensive plan to respond to this national crisis and to immediately take steps to implement reforms that will bridge the homework gap that has already left millions of children behind with no access to internet or connected devices. These reforms include temporarily expanding unlimited mobile data and voice minutes to consumers to keep them connected during the pandemic, closing proposed rulemakings that could create new obstacles for eligible households, pausing unnecessary standards changes that could result in disruptions to broadband access in the midst of a pandemic, and notifying Congress if additional funding is needed to support the program.  

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Kamala Harris (D-CA). 

Warner and Kaine have previously called for robust Lifeline and E-Rate assistance program funding to ensure Americans stay connected amid the coronavirus pandemic. In April, they joined group of 27 senators in calling on Congressional leadership to commit at least $1 billion in funding for the Lifeline program in future coronavirus relief to meet the new connectivity needs of Americans. That letter is available here. Warner and Kaine also cosponsored the Emergency Educational Connections Act, legislation aimed at ensuring K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, Sen. Warner recently wrote a letter urging prominent tech companies to help ensure that Virginia students can properly participate in distance learning this fall. That letter is available here.

A copy of today’s full letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Chairman Pai,

            We write to express our profound frustration that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has failed to take forceful action to keep households connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. As millions of American families face unprecedented financial pressures and educational challenges, we urge the FCC to reverse proposed changes to the Lifeline program, take immediate steps to open its assistance to more households, and ensure that its services meet the pressing needs of families during this crisis.

            The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and even reinforced the vast homework gap that has left millions of children offline because their parents cannot afford broadband internet access. Schools across the country are grappling with this digital divide as they decide whether they can safely reopen and whether virtual learning will work. According to Common Sense Media, one quarter of students nationally are at risk of being left out of the classroom because they lack broadband or connected devices, a toll that falls disproportionately and disastrously on communities of color.[1] Unfortunately, the homework gap has already had an immense cost to children during this crisis, as some students have been forced to forgo online lectures and miss important homework. We are alarmed that as students head back to class – in person or online – there is still no national plan from the FCC to secure families’ access to their educational future. This looming disaster is one product of the vast digital divide that hinders families’ educational futures, economic opportunities, and health, which FCC should vigorously bridge through Lifeline and other USF programs

            The FCC already has the ability to take immediate steps to close the homework gap and ensure that families have access to broadband. One of the FCC’s most important assistance programs, Lifeline, was established under the Reagan Administration to provide discounts for free or low cost phone services to those who qualify for other financial assistance. In the four decades since, the Lifeline program has been supported and expanded on a bipartisan basis – a resounding recognition that phone and internet access is essential for economic security, health, and family life. Lifeline has lived up to its name for millions of veterans needing telehealth services,[2] domestic violence survivors,[3] older Americans, those experiencing housing insecurity, and other vulnerable Americans. Our immense reliance on broadband during the pandemic for telework, virtual learning, social connections, and telehealth has proven the original, bipartisan vision of Lifeline.

            Regrettably, under your Chairmanship, the FCC has actively worked to undermine and destabilize the Lifeline program, which has left more families vulnerable during the pandemic by widening the learning gap and lessening household’s ability to access crucial services, such as unemployment benefits, food assistance, and health resources. Since the first weeks of your tenure, the FCC has sought to block new broadband providers’ participation in the Lifeline program, curtail benefits in tribal areas, exclude existing carriers, rollback reforms for registering new carriers, make it harder for new applicants to subscribe, prevent carriers from offering free in-person distribution of phones, reduce incentives to enroll subscribers, and add more barriers for participating carriers and subscriber. These proposals have been so extreme that they would lead to cutting off carriers serving almost 70% of Lifeline subscribers.[4] 

The FCC has also failed to complete important reforms to ease burdens on consumers and reduce fraud, such as the full implementation of the National Verifier meant to automate registration and preserve the integrity of Lifeline.[5] Lastly, carriers face continued uncertainty about the long-term stability of the program given the open FCC proposals to cut back participation and compensation for services. The consequences of this sustained assault on Lifeline are stark – less than 20% eligible households subscribe to services, as much as a 30% drop during your watch.[6] 

            The FCC should step up to tackle the profound inequities and divides that American families are struggling with during this national crisis. We appreciate that the FCC issued and extended the temporary waivers in response to the pandemic to pause usage and subscriber documentation requirements, and also appreciate that it partnered with state utility commissioners to improve public awareness of the program.[7] But, by the benchmark established during previous crises, such as Hurricane Katrina, the FCC response falls far short. Lifeline could be a reprieve for millions of households. The FCC should take the initiative to ensure that Lifeline meets the connectivity needs of households sheltering in place at home and facing financial hardship during the COVID-19 crisis. However, regrettably, you have asked your Commissioner colleagues to vote on order that would permanently alter the minimum standards for Lifeline without changes in contributions, which could potentially lead to the loss of the free Lifeline services in the middle of this pandemic.[8] We support increasing Lifeline subscribers’ data allowances during this crisis, but such increases should be backed with additional funding. At this critical moment, the FCC should provide the additional financial support needed for Lifeline subscriptions to meet the data demands of virtual classroom time, telehealth, and telework during this time.[9]

It is time for the FCC to offer a bold plan to respond to this national crisis through bolstering the Lifeline program, and the Commission does not need to wait to act. We strongly urge you to immediately take the following steps:

  1. Take emergency measures to provide additional financial support to Lifeline providers during the pandemic to temporarily provide unlimited mobile data and voice minutes, and notify Congress if additional funding is needed to support such changes.
  2. Extend all current FCC waivers on Lifeline usage and subscriber documentation requirements for at least a full year, until August 2021 or when we have recovered from the pandemic.
  3. Close the currently outstanding Lifeline proposed rulemakings that would create new obstacles for eligible households and add unwarranted burden on carriers.
  4. Pause the scheduled changes to Lifeline program’s minimum service standards until the Commission studies such impacts on the market in its upcoming 2021 State of Lifeline Marketplace Report, to avoid disruptions to customer’s services.
  5. Restore the monthly subsidy to $9.25 for plans offering voice services for subscribers who value voice over data-heavy plans and pause the planned decrease in contributions for voice support.
  6. Work with states to increase the automated verification of state databases with the National Verifier program by the end of this year.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.           

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a former technology and telecommunications entrepreneur, urged prominent tech companies to contribute to a whole-of-society effort to contain the economic and societal impact of COVID-19 by helping ensure that Virginia students can properly participate in distance learning this fall.  

In letters to DellAppleHPSamsungGoogleMicrosoftAcer America, and ASUS USA, Sen. Warner asked companies to do what they can to help bridge the “homework gap” – the lack of reliable computer or internet access that prevents school-aged children from being able to do school work from home. 

“While the CARES Act provided essential funding for schools to purchase equipment for home learning, significant challenges remain to provide students with appropriate devices,” wrote Sen. Warner. “Any primary and secondary school districts report that computers and tablets suitable for student use are not readily available for them to purchase in bulk. In other areas where the district doesn’t provide items, families are not able to afford purchasing their own devices. Vulnerable students who already face numerous hardships are then further disadvantaged when they cannot access a remote education due to device unavailability.”

He continued, “In light of these circumstances, I urge you take immediate action to help close this new education gap created by the health crisis as the school year commences. There are a range of actions your company can take, including educational product discounts, the provision of complimentary or donated computers (including for home lending programs many educational institutions operate), and the provision of refurbished or returned products in good working condition for school districts and higher education institutions to distribute to educators and students. While I understand the strains placed on the global supply chain, your prioritization of these matters would greatly assist struggling families at this challenging time.” 

According to findings from a Pew Research study, the homework gap is more pronounced among Black, Hispanic and lower-income households. The economic cost of this gap has been identified by McKinsey and Company as having deprived the economy of at least $426 billion between 2009 and 2019.

In his letter, Sen. Warner noted that the necessary distance-learning measures that schools have adopted during this public health crisis have likely exacerbated this gap and highlighted the heavy reliance on now-inaccessible school computer labs.

Sen. Warner also expressed his willingness to facilitate the effort to support students by offering to help connect the companies to local education officials and administrators in Virginia.

Sen. Warner has continued to be a strong advocate for education during the COVID-19 crisis. Last month, he introduced legislation to prevent the Trump Administration from reducing or redirecting critical education funding for schools that determine they cannot safely reopen for in-person instruction in the fall. He has also joined his Senate colleagues in introducing a bill to ensure K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices and has also repeatedly advocated for robust funding and distance learning resources for K-12 students. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led 16 Senators in a letter to Senate leaders urging them to include long-term relief for millions of Americans with student loans in the next coronavirus relief package as negotiations between Senate Republicans and Democrats continue. The letter comes after the President issued an executive order that only places a three-month forbearance for some student loan borrowers, leaving nearly 8 million student loan borrowers to fend for themselves in the midst of an economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Although the President recently issued an Executive Order temporarily extending forbearance for some borrowers and waiving interest through the end of the year, Congress must act to ensure this relief is reliably available until the public health emergency ends. Further, only congressional action will ensure that all of our nation’s 43 million federal student loan borrowers are able to access full relief. Just as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided six months of relief following administrative action, we strongly believe that student loan forbearance should be codified for the duration of our economic crisis in the next COVID-19 response legislation,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Due to the financial impact of COVID-19, many student loan borrowers faced the uncertainty of meeting their monthly repayment obligations in addition to paying for their basic necessities. To help provide a financial lifeline, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which provided six months of interest free relief for certain federal student loan borrowers, through September 30, 2020. With Senate Republicans and Democrats still hammering out a deal on the next COVID-relief package, the President signed an executive order to extend existing CARES Act student loan repayment protections for another three months, which still leaves nearly 8 million of Americans from being unable to attain this critical relief.   

Unfortunately, nearly 8 million borrowers were not eligible for the CARES Act relief, and will not benefit from the President’s Executive Order. These donut holes must be closed. And, while administrative action extending the forbearance will provide relief to many borrowers, it is not clear how the U.S. Department of Education will handle crucial issues related to credit toward forgiveness, credit reporting, loan rehabilitation, and collections that were addressed by the CARES Act. It is critical that Congress provide this relief legislatively so that payments do not resume before the economy is showing signs of recovery, that borrowers do not experience collateral damage from further donut holes in the Executive Order, and that no one faces unnecessary uncertainty about the status and treatment of their loans during this difficult time,” wrote the Senators.

In the letter, the Senators underscore that student loan debt has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino Americans. Approximately 90 percent of Black students and 72 percent of Latino students take out loans, compared to 66 percent of their white counterparts. While the student loan crisis has always contributed to inequality in the U.S., the COVID-19 crisis has only exposed and exacerbated these inequities.                                 

To help make sure that all student loan borrowers have access to financial relief, the Senators also urged that the next COVID relief package include long-term financial relief for all federal student loan borrowers through September 2021, which mirrors provisions from the House passed HEROES Act.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jackie Rosen (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

A copy of the letter is found here and below.

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

We write in support of our nation’s federal student loan borrowers, specifically the millions of those whose ability to repay their loans has been negatively impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and resulting economic crisis. Although the President recently issued an Executive Order temporarily extending forbearance for some borrowers and waiving interest through the end of the year, Congress must act to ensure this relief is reliably available until the public health emergency ends. Further, only congressional action will ensure that all of our nation’s 43 million federal student loan borrowers are able to access full relief. Just as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided six months of relief following administrative action, we strongly believe that student loan forbearance should be codified for the duration of our economic crisis in the next COVID-19 response legislation.

For the 19th consecutive week, over 1 million Americans have filed for new unemployment benefits. This unprecedented increase in job loss in the U.S. resulting from the coronavirus has left many people unable to afford even basic necessities. Despite the sudden and rapid rise in unemployment numbers, the U.S. is likely to experience high unemployment levels for a significant time. A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that unemployment will still be over 9% by 2021. As families continue to face sudden joblessness, high medical bills, and other financial setbacks resulting from the crisis, tens of millions of student loan borrowers have continued to worry about when they will have to resume their payments.

We appreciate your leadership in ensuring that the CARES Act provided relief to certain federal student loan borrowers through September 30, 2020. Congress extended a critical lifeline by not requiring payments on most federally-held loans, suspending interest accrual for such loans, prohibiting forced collections and negative credit reporting, and ensuring that student loan borrowers continue receiving credit toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, income-driven repayment forgiveness, and loan rehabilitation. These key details were an important part of the relief provided to borrowers.

Unfortunately, nearly 8 million borrowers were not eligible for the CARES Act relief, and will not benefit from the President’s Executive Order. These donut holes must be closed. And, while administrative action extending the forbearance will provide relief to many borrowers, it is not clear how the U.S. Department of Education will handle crucial issues related to credit toward forgiveness, credit reporting, loan rehabilitation, and collections that were addressed by the CARES Act. It is critical that Congress provide this relief legislatively so that payments do not resume before the economy is showing signs of recovery, that borrowers do not experience collateral damage from further donut holes in the Executive Order, and that no one faces unnecessary uncertainty about the status and treatment of their loans during this difficult time.

We also know that the burden of student debt is even heavier for Black and Latino borrowers. About 90% of Black students and 72% of Latino students take out loans, compared to 66% of white students. The student loan crisis has always contributed to inequality in the U.S., and, without further Congressional action, COVID-19 will only exacerbate the problem. Given the dire circumstances for many student loan borrowers, we urge you to ensure that an extension of reprieve on student loan payment is codified in future COVID-19 related legislation.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act on May 15, 2020. The bill would extend the current suspension of payments, interest, and involuntary collections through September 2021. This timeline is essential given the projected length of the economic crisis borrowers are facing. The bill also extends the relief in the CARES Act to all federal student loans. We request your leadership in ensuring that the Senate adopts these HEROES Act provisions, and appreciate your continued work in getting essential relief to our nation’s student loan borrowers.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 28 of their Senate colleagues in urging Senate leadership to reject the Trump Administration’s desire to condition education funds in the next coronavirus relief package on the reopening of elementary and secondary schools for in-person instruction. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Appropriations Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Senators said that the Senate should not be complicit in President Trump’s demands that would risk the health and lives of students and school personnel, and that Congress should instead provide federal assistance to schools in need and support for local officials to base reopening decisions on facts and science.

“Instead, Congress should provide federal assistance to elementary and secondary schools that gives state and local officials the tools and resources they need to ensure a safe and effective learning environment for students, including students from low-income families and students of color, and a safe and effective working environment for educators and staff—whether it be in-person, remote, or a hybrid model,” the Senators wrote. “Every one of us wants schools to reopen when it is safe to do so.  But, facts and science must drive those decisions, not Presidential pipedreams or impatience.” 

The Senate Republican proposal, unveiled this week by McConnell, would provide only $70 billion to elementary and secondary education – with an estimated two-thirds of that federal funding held hostage unless schools reopen to in-person learning.  Durbin and other Senate Democrats, led by Senator Patty Murray of Washington, have proposed the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act, which would provide $175 billion to elementary and secondary education without regard to the operating status of schools. 

In addition to Sens. Warner and Durbin, the letter was signed by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR),  Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA),  Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D_MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV),  Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Gary Peters (D-MI). 

Text of this letter is available here.

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation to prevent the Trump Administration from reducing or redirecting education funding for schools that determine they cannot safely reopen for in-person instruction in the fall. This bill comes as the Trump Administration continues to pressure education leaders to fully reopen schools by threatening to cut education funding.

“The decision to reopen schools should be informed by local health figures and determined by community health officials, parents and teachers,” said Sen. Warner. “Instead of working to support such efforts during this global pandemic, President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are blindly pressuring schools all across the country to make decisions that may put students, teachers, and families at risk. This bill makes it clear that the Administration has no legal authority to cut critical education funding during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Specifically, the legislation prohibits the promulgation of any federal regulation, guidance, or policy that requires in-person instruction during this public health crisis. It clarifies that the Secretary of Education cannot compel in-person instruction during an emergency as declared by a federal, state, or local authority, with respect to COVID-19. The bill would apply to any program for which the Secretary of Education has administrative responsibility under the General Education Provisions Act.

Sen. Warner has continued to be a strong advocate for education during the COVID-19 crisis. In May, he joined his Senate colleagues in introducing a bill to ensure K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices so that they may participate in online learning during this health crisis. He has also repeatedly advocated for robust funding and distance learning resources for K-12 students.

Full text of the bill is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued a statement today regarding threats by the Trump Administration to withhold federal education funding from school districts that determine they cannot safely reopen for in-person instruction in the fall:

“Decisions about school openings should be made by local health officials, parents and teachers – not Betsy DeVos or Donald Trump,” said Sen. Warner. “I'll be introducing a bill to make it crystal clear that the Trump Administration doesn’t have the authority to cut off funding for local schools during the COVID-19 crisis.” 

Sen. Warner has continued to be a strong advocate for education during the COVID-19 crisis. In May, he joined his Senate colleagues in introducing a bill to ensure K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices so that they may participate in online learning during this health crisis. He has also repeatedly advocated for robust funding and distance learning resources for K-12 students.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (VA) joined Sens. Gary Peters (MI), Bob Casey (PA) and Jacky Rosen (NV) in introducing legislation to increase awareness and understanding of African American history across our schools through expanded access to programming from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The 1619 Act would provide federal funding to support African American History educational programs through workshops and professional development activities for educators. 

“Michiganders and Americans across the country are demanding we work together to address bigotry, hatred and systemic racism. While I know we can meet this moment by working together, a central part of that effort must include ensuring that this generation – and future generations – of students can learn about and fully understand American history, including the African American experience,” said Senator Peters. “Black history should not only be recognized in our public schools as something that happens one month a year, each February but something that is a larger part of the curriculum throughout the year. I’m proud to introduce the 1619 Act, whichwould help educators overcome barriers to teaching about African American history by providing federal funding and promote awareness and understanding among students.”

“For far too long, our education system has taught an incomplete version of American history, which downplays the oppression that the Black community has experienced and continues to experience,” said Senator Casey. “The 1619 Act is long overdue and would provide educators with the tools to strengthen the American history curriculum—because Black history is American history. We must address systematic inequality through education and understanding of the barriers and bigotry that the Black community has faced since 1619. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to help future generations learn to bridge the racial divide.”

“One step toward healing the racial divide in our nation and working to dismantle systemic racism is through education,” said Senator Rosen. “This legislation would create opportunities for public school teachers to partner with the National Museum of African American History and Culture in order to provide comprehensive African American history programs throughout the country. I will continue advocating for educational programs and working towards passing meaningful reform to root out the injustices that have taken far too many Black lives and caused so much suffering.”

Joining Warner, Peters, Casey and Rosen in introducing the 1619 Act were: Sens. Tammy Duckworth (IL), Ron Wyden (OR), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Krysten Sinema (AZ), Bernie Sanders (VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Elizabeth Warren (MA).

The legislation has broad support, including from:

“As we search for ways to come together in order to tackle the systemic racism that has stained our society for centuries, reimagining how we teach our students about African American history and culture is a top priority,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy & Director of the Washington Bureau, NAACP. “Providing more of our educators the opportunity to access the resources needed to impart these lessons on their students is critical to securing any progress we are able to make, and we commend Senator Peters, Senator Casey and Senator Rosen for spearheading this effort.

“For too long, our educational system has withheld students from further exploring the triumphs, horrors and heroes of African American history that are so integral to our nation’s story,” said Ebonie C. Riley, DC Bureau Chief, National Action Network. “The 1619 Act would be a first step in ensuring that the next generation of students can immerse themselves in this important historical narrative, and we look forward to continue working with the Senators to ensure it is enacted into law.”

“NEA commends Senator Peters, Senator Rosen and Senator Casey for introducing the 1619 Act,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President, National Education Association. “We are happy to see a bill that bolsters and helps public school educators utilize the already amazing materials at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is vitally important that our students from all backgrounds learn about and understand African-American history and the African-American experience in the United States. That African-American story is rich, amazing, and heart wrenching. It is inextricably intertwined with the origin story of the founding of our country. Knowledge and information about the critical role of African Americans in this country is also a step in helping to end systemic racism. Making sure our educators have the training and information necessary to share is critical and we think this bill will help to make that happen.”

We are constantly working to improve educational programs for our students and assist our educators and administrators in ensuring they have all the available resources to do so,” said Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson, Superintendent of Oakland County Schools. “There is no question that our schools can do more to increase awareness and understanding of African American history. Senator Peters’ 1619 Act is common sense, much-needed legislation and I believe dedicated federal funding to expand African American history educational programs would make a difference.”

Many schools are not required to teach students about African American history and educators can face barriers including a lack of funding to access quality resources, a lack of awareness of where to find resources, or a lack of knowledge of how to develop or incorporate curricula. The 1619 Act would recognize the importance of African American history at the federal level, provide $10 million in funding over a five-year period and expand the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s education programming to teachers across the country.

This funding would specifically be available to support high school teachers, middle school teachers, school administrators and prospective teachers engage with quality resources on African American history. This in turn would help allow students in schools across the nation to learn more about African American history as well as teach valuable lessons from the African American experience along with the economic, political, social, cultural and other contributions generations of African American leaders have made to our nation. 

The 1619 Act would additionally: 

  • Expand the National Museum of African American History and Culture professional development programs, through activities such as local, regional, and national workshops, teacher trainings with African American history education partners, and engagement with local educational agencies and schools.
  • Require the museum to create and maintain a centralized website for African American history, where educators can find curriculum materials, best practice and resources. 
  • Prioritize support for schools that currently do not offer African American history education programs;
  • Organize and promote local, regional and national workshops and teacher trainings with African American history education partners, and;
  • Encourage individual states’ education agencies to work with schools in order to integrate these programs within their course curriculum.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) applauded $767,139 in federal funding from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to support telehealth services at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, Va. The funding was made possible through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help health care providers provide telehealth services to patients at home or in mobile locations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During this health crisis, telehealth services have been instrumental in making sure Virginians can continue to receive the health care they need without having to travel,” said the Senators. “We’re pleased that these federal dollars will help support the work of our health care providers as they treat individuals in our communities.” 

These funds will go towards telemedicine carts, tablets, video monitors, a telehealth platform, remote patient monitoring equipment, and network upgrades to support clinical videoconferencing with remote patient examination tools; to help build a virtual urgent care platform; and to expand remote patient monitoring program as patients are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are discharged from the hospital. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime advocates for increased access to health care through telehealth. The first emergency bipartisan bill to combat COVID-19 included language from Sen. Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Kaine, to reduce restrictions on the use of telehealth for public health emergency response, as well as $500 million to facilitate its implementation. Earlier this month, the Senators sent a letter to congressional leadership urging Congress to ensure that access to telehealth services that were made available during the COVID-19 pandemic be madepermanent.

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WASHINGTON, DC – As health and education officials develop novel coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines, precautions, and restrictions for reopening schools this fall, Senate Democrats are urging Congress and the Trump Administration to act with the same sense of urgency and provide additional federal funding to help students safely return to the classroom.

Without swift, comprehensive Congressional action, it will be impossible for America’s 100,000 K-12 public schools -- which are already facing severe budget cuts -- to adequately prepare to protect students, teachers, staff, families, and the community from the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the coming academic year.

Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and a group of Senate Democrats in calling for at least $175 billion for the Elementary and Secondary Education Relief Fund in any future coronavirus relief package. 

“There can be no economic recovery in either the short term or the long term unless we make the investments necessary to safely reopen schools and ensure continuity of education during the ongoing pandemic,” the 41 Senators wrote.  “If schools are unable to reopen safely, it will be nearly impossible for many parents and caregivers to return to work.  Moreover, the long-term consequences of sustained educational disruption could also hold this generation back, affecting students’ quality of life and weakening our nation.   We must take urgent action to ensure that schools are ready and able to educate children this fall and redouble our efforts to close opportunity gaps that are far too prevalent in the communities suffering the greatest health and economic harm from the impact of COVID-19.  As such, we ask that you include at least an additional $175 billion in dedicated funding for the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund that was established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

The CARES Act (Public Law No. 116-136) provided a much-needed $30.75 billion down payment on education funding, but not nearly enough to help cover the additional costs from this school year while also ensuring that schools nationwide will be ready to safely reopen in the fall.  Under the law, $13.5 billion went to K-12 emergency relief grants, while $13.95 billion was made available for a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for colleges and universities, with the remaining $2.95 billion directed to an Education Stabilization Fund for disbursement to governors.

Senate Democrats note K-12 schools are facing added expenses this year amidst budget cuts and declining state and local revenue.  The 41 Senators are urging Congress to prioritize the health and education of America’s children and provide at least $175 billion for K-12 education in the next COVID-19 relief package. 

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have instead opted to focus on partisan nominations instead of safely reopening schools.  This Republican blocking creates needless budget uncertainty and place the reopening of schools around the country -- especially in school districts hit hardest by COVID-19 – in peril. 

Senate Democrats say it is important for communities and school leaders to be able to adequately prepare for the school year and urge Republicans to work on a bipartisan education package in the next coronavirus relief bill.

“This upcoming school year will be like no other.” the Senators wrote.  “School districts will need to redesign the school day and be prepared to switch to distance learning as necessary.  There will be new protocols for sanitation, transportation, and staffing.  Schools will have to reengineer the use of space in and around the school building and reconfigure classrooms to ensure that social distancing can be maintained.  More critically, they will also need to increase their capacity to support children’s well-being – including nutrition, health screenings, and mental health supports – whether in person or at a distance.   One thing is certain, school is a lifeline for children in the communities hit hardest by the pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout.  School must be there for them.”

In addition to Sens. Warner and Reed, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators: Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Tim Kaine, (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) Tom Udall (D-NM), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-NV) Mark Warner (D-VA) Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus S. King (I-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

Full text of the letter follows:

June 18, 2020

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

There can be no economic recovery in either the short term or the long term unless we make the investments necessary to safely reopen schools and ensure continuity of education during the ongoing pandemic.  If schools are unable to reopen safely, it will be nearly impossible for many parents and caregivers to return to work.  Moreover, the long-term consequences of sustained educational disruption could also hold this generation back, affecting students’ quality of life and weakening our nation.   We must take urgent action to ensure that schools are ready and able to educate children this fall and redouble our efforts to close opportunity gaps that are far too prevalent in the communities suffering the greatest health and economic harm from the impact of COVID-19.  As such, we ask that you include at least an additional $175 billion in dedicated funding for the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund that was established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

This upcoming school year will be like no other.  School districts will need to redesign the school day and be prepared to switch to distance learning as necessary.  There will be new protocols for sanitation, transportation, and staffing.  Schools will have to reengineer the use of space in and around the school building and reconfigure classrooms to ensure that social distancing can be maintained.  More critically, they will also need to increase their capacity to support children’s well-being – including nutrition, health screenings, and mental health supports – whether in person or at a distance.   One thing is certain, school is a lifeline for children in the communities hit hardest by the pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout.  School must be there for them.

We are counting on schools being able to deliver these services.  Yet we know the resources are not there.  State and local governments are reeling from the loss of revenue due to the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic.  A recent report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates $765 billion in state budget shortfalls over the next three years.  School districts across the country are issuing layoff notices in anticipation of budget cuts.  Even if schools were able to maintain current levels of staffing and financial resources, it would not be enough to meet the challenges of the upcoming academic year.  AASA, The School Superintendents Association, estimates that the average additional COVID-related cost per student will be $490, which for the average school district of 3,700 students amounts to $1.8 million.  A recent analysis from the Learning Policy Institute estimates that the national financial impact of increased costs and decreased state and local education revenues could be nearly $230 billion.  

The federal government must step in with a comprehensive plan to support the reopening of schools and continuity of education for our children.  Such a plan would stabilize state and local budgets, ensure equity in access to technology and broadband, enhance nutrition services, ensure sufficient testing and contact tracing to control the spread of the virus, and expand the reach of our cultural agencies such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities to enhance school offerings and support continued learning in the community.  However, the central feature of the plan must be substantial dedicated resources for our public schools to meet the additional costs and to address the additional needs of students during this time of public health, economic, and social crises.  As such, we urge you to provide at least an additional $175 billion for the Elementary and Secondary Education Relief Fund in any future coronavirus relief package.

Thank you for your consideration of this critical request. 

Sincerely,

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and a group of senators in urging Senate leadership to include $47 billion in financial support for students and institutions of higher learning in the upcoming coronavirus relief package.

"Higher education provides a ladder of economic opportunity to our nation’s students while also building a globally competitive workforce. Colleges and universities are also pillars of communities,” the senators wrote in their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Across the entire higher education sector, institutions last year directly employed 3.6 million individuals. Additionally, research universities are at the forefront in searching for scientific solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges, including COVID-19. These immense contributions to society are at grave risk without additional support.”

“Students are facing complex financial emergencies that threaten their ability to remain on their path to degree completion,” the senators continued. “The needs are particularly pronounced for students of color, low-income students, veterans, and first generation college students. Colleges and universities have taken immediate steps to protect individual health by shifting to remote learning platforms so students can maintain academic progress during the disruption, but face massive increases in expenses combined with a precipitous decline in revenue.”

In their letter, the senators also emphasized the substantial costs and losses already faced by institutions of higher education as enrollment declines and state cuts jeopardize the financial vitality of schools. To meet the needs of these schools and their students during this tumultuous time, the senators requested that significant additional emergency relief be provided by Congress, and that schools receive the flexibility they need to use the funding most effectively within their communities.

Sens. Merkley and Warner were joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

The full text of the letter is available here and can be found below.

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Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

Thank you for your swift and robust action to alleviate the health and economic impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As you prepare for a fourth economic relief package, we respectfully urge you to provide $47 billion in financial support for students and institutions of higher learning.

Higher education provides a ladder of economic opportunity to our nation’s students while also building a globally competitive workforce. Colleges and universities are also pillars of communities. Across the entire higher education sector, institutions last year directly employed 3.6 million individuals. Additionally, research universities are at the forefront in searching for scientific solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges, including COVID-19. These immense contributions to society are at grave risk without additional support.

Congress responded in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to the emergency financial needs of students, colleges, and universities by providing $14 billion in support through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. However, students and institutions are experiencing vastly greater need. Students are facing complex financial emergencies that threaten their ability to remain on their path to degree completion. The needs are particularly pronounced for students of color, low-income students, veterans, and first generation college students. Colleges and universities have taken immediate steps to protect individual health by shifting to remote learning platforms so students can maintain academic progress during the disruption, but face massive increases in expenses combined with a precipitous decline in revenue.

In addition to the substantial costs and losses already faced by institutions, the threat of ongoing financial uncertainty stemming from enrollment declines and state cuts threaten the financial stability of schools. The situation requires significant additional emergency relief from Congress. Congress should also provide more flexibility in the use of funds to ensure that federal investment can be effectively targeted by colleges and universities to meet the needs of students and communities.

We thank you for your support of these critical investments in our nation’s students and institutions of higher learning.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA) urged the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require that human capital management information is made publicly available in a timely and accurate manner to help determine whether a company will be successfully able to weather risks following the COVID-19 crisis – a critical issue for investors and the overall economy. In their letter to the SEC, the members of Congress stressed the importance of standardizing the human capital management policies that companies disclose to the public, particularly policies regarding employee engagement and sick leave, investment in training, and administrative controls like cleaning practices, varying work schedules, and protective equipment for workers.

“During these deeply uncertain times, companies and workers face a rapidly evolving set of economic, health, and workforce challenges unimaginable only a few months ago. Now, more than ever, investors and the public should have access to comprehensive, timely, and comparable information related to companies’ human capital management practices,” wrote the lawmakers. “Over the past several months, companies across the country have taken extreme actions to adapt and respond to the evolving workforce challenges presented by COVID-19.  Facing extraordinary operational and financial challenges, different industries and businesses are attempting to weather the crisis in unique ways.”

“Through different responses to their workforce, from layoffs to workplace safety to paid leave, COVID-19 is exposing the myriad ways that company human capital management practices pose operational and reputational risks for short and long-term performance.” they continued. “To standardize what companies disclose to the public, we urge you to provide the guidance necessary to ensure timely and accurate delivery of critical human capital management information to investors.”

In their letter, the lawmakers requested that the SEC finalize and implement proposed modernizations to Regulation S-K and its updates to human capital management reporting requirements, urging that these requirements include quantitative disclosure items with a high value across industries, like total number employees, total wages, turnover rates, spending on employee training opportunities, and whether workers have full-time or contractor status.

Sen. Warner and Rep. Axne have long called for better disclosure practices of human capital management information. They have introduced bicameral legislation to require public companies to disclose basic human capital metrics, including workforce turnover rates, skills and development training, workforce health and safety, and compensation statistics. Sen. Warner has repeatedly urged the SEC to revise and modernize Regulation S-K to require public reporting companies to disclose more qualitative and quantitative information regarding human capital. 

Additionally, Sen. Warner has been an outspoken advocate of investing in workers and ensuring they are adequately equipped to participate in the 21st century labor force. Last year, the SEC announced a proposed Regulation S-K rule following advocacy by Sen. Warner, who previously urged the Commission to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management. Most recently, he sent a letter requesting that the SEC require companies to disclose specific metrics in addition to human capital resources, measures, and objectives.

Text of the letter is available here and below. 

 

The Honorable Jay Clayton 

Chairman

Securities & Exchange Commission

100 F Street, N.E.

Washington, D.C. 20549

Dear Chairman Clayton,

We appreciate the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) efforts to help stabilize markets and protect investors in the face of the extraordinary economic disruption caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  During these deeply uncertain times, companies and workers face a rapidly evolving set of economic, health, and workforce challenges unimaginable only a few months ago.  Now, more than ever, investors and the public should have access to comprehensive, timely, and comparable information related to companies’ human capital management practices.  Indeed, the current COVID-19 pandemic is a vivid example of why human capital management reporting is so critical to carrying out the SEC’s mission to protect investors; maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets; and facilitate capital formation.

Over the past several months, companies across the country have taken extreme actions to adapt and respond to the evolving workforce challenges presented by COVID-19.  Facing extraordinary operational and financial challenges, different industries and businesses are attempting to weather the crisis in unique ways.  JUST Capital, for example, has been tracking the responses of the S&P’s 100 largest public companies to their workers and finds wide variation in the policies implemented as well as their disclosure.   Through different responses to their workforce, from layoffs to workplace safety to paid leave, COVID-19 is exposing the myriad ways that company human capital management practices pose operational and reputational risks for short and long-term performance.

To standardize what companies disclose to the public, we urge you to provide the guidance necessary to ensure timely and accurate delivery of critical human capital management information to investors.  This includes, among other things: remuneration across the workforce; employee engagement and sick leave information; investment in training, especially with regard to health and safety preparedness; identification of workforce safety hazards and levels of risk; administrative controls; such as cleaning practices, varying work schedules; and protective equipment for workers, such as masks and gloves.  These issues will be important in determining if companies will be able to open and remain open, a critical issue for investors as well as for the economy as a whole. 

We also urge you to quickly move forward with finalizing the proposed modernizations to Regulation S-K’s human capital management reporting requirements with the following improvements.  Investors and the public should have much-needed, fundamental human capital information to assess a company’s ongoing performance now and in the future.  Finalized metrics should include quantitative disclosure items with a high value across industries, such as total employees, total wages, whether workers are full-time or contractors, turnover and promotion rates, violations of workplace safety regulations, and spending on employee training opportunities.  Disclosure of these critical workforce metrics will better enable investors to assess the impact of future health or economic crises on the company’s workforce, which are material to company performance, investment and voting decisions.

In fact, disclosure of human capital management policies should be part of a whole-of-government economic recovery strategy.  You have noted in the past on calls with SEC Investor Advisory Committee members that “human capital and intellectual property often represent an essential resource and driver of performance for many companies.”   We agree.  Using asset management industry measurement standards such as risk-adjusted returns and means excess returns, researchers find that the S&P 500 firms disclosing their human capital costs are disproportionately the highest performing firms.   This same research finds that intensity of human capital reporting is correlated with greater firm financial performance, a focus on long-term value creation, and a higher return on investment from talent.   The estimated overarching benefits to the economy would vastly outweigh the costs of disclosure.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder that investors and the public are well served by a robust human capital management disclosure regime.  As the founder of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism recently noted in the Financial Times, U.S. financial markets had no form of standardized financial accounting before 1929.   Just as GAAP was urgently adopted after the Great Depression, we strongly believe standardized, comparable metrics of human capital disclosure requirements in the context of this pandemic are critical for investors to accurately measure company performance both now and in the future, which furthers the SEC’s mission to “protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.” 

Thank you for your continued work during these challenging times.  We look forward to working with you on this critical matter. 

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined more than 40 of their colleagues to introduce the Emergency Educational Connections Act, legislation aimed at ensuring K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is the Senate companion to legislation recently introduced in the House, but makes one important change: increasing the appropriation from $2 billion to $4 billion. Education groups had originally identified the $2 billion figure believing the crisis would last only through this academic year. As it has become clear that the crisis could last far longer, need has only increased. 

“As a nation, we have a responsibility to make sure that this health crisis does not interfere with our ability to continue providing a quality education to every single child – no matter where they live or how much their parents make,” said Warner. “Students and teachers all over the Commonwealth are doing their best to adapt to this new normal, but it’s up to Congress to provide schools with the funding they need to make sure every child is able to successfully participate in virtual learning. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation to help schools and libraries afford the additional connectivity resources needed during this pandemic.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has revealed great disparities in our nation, including in our education system,” Kaine said.“Congress must step up to ensure no student, particularly those in low-income households, is left behind as schools transition to online learning. This legislation will support both schools and students with the resources they need to stay connected and focus on their education during this time.” 

The “homework gap” is experienced by 12 million students in this country who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework. Research has shown that this gap affects students in both rural and urban areas and disproportionately affects lower-income students and students of color.  Students without internet access at home consistently score lower in reading, math, and science.  This existing inequity has been exacerbated during this current public health emergency as schools suspend in-person classes and transition to remote learning over the internet to protect the health of students, faculty, and staff. 

Specifically, the Emergency Educational Connections Act would:

  1. Provide $4 billion in federal support for elementary and secondary schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices (as well as internet service through such equipment) to students, staff, and patrons;
  2. Allow schools and libraries to continue to use the equipment after the emergency period; and
  3. Ensure schools and libraries prioritize support for those most in need, following the guidelines of the E-Rate program.

As the coronavirus pandemic develops, the E-Rate program offers an immediate solution that may help mitigate the impact of this crisis on our most vulnerable families. Additional funding for E-Rate would greatly narrow the homework gap and help ensure that all students can continue to learn.

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE

The legislation was also cosponsored by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Doug Jones (D-AL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Gary Peters (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and John Tester (D-MT).

The Emergency Educational Connections Act is supported by the following organizations: AASA The School Superintendents Association, Advance CTE, Alliance for Excellent Education, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, AFLCIO, American Library Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, ASCD, Association for Career and Technical Education, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), Children's Health Fund, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Committee for Children, Common Sense Media, CoSN - Consortium for School Networking, Council for Exceptional Children, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Family Centered Treatment Foundation, First Focus Campaign for Children, Girls Inc., IDEA Public Schools, International Society for Technology in Education, KIPP Foundation, Learning Forward, Magnet Schools of America, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, National Association for Music Education, National Association of Counties (NACo), National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS), National Association of Independent Schools, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), National Catholic Educational Association, National Center for Families Learning, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), National Education Association, National Forum to Accelerate, Middle-Grades Reform, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, National Rural Education Association, National School Boards Association (NSBA), Parents as Teachers, Public Knowledge, Project Tomorrow, Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK), SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association), Schools Healthy & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB), Stand for Children, Teach For America, and The Education Trust. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the below statement on the Trump Administration’s final regulation detailing the responsibilities of elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities for addressing sexual harassment and assault:  

“With regard to the serious issues of sexual assault and harassment, the needs of survivors must come first. The Administration’s failure with this final rule affects students of all ages and is a serious deviation from its responsibility. The rule recklessly violates the intent behind Title IX to ensure educational equity for all students. It inappropriately limits the situations in which schools must act to address sexual misconduct and allows a number of practices that will make campus adjudication processes less supportive of survivors. With so many students away from their physical learning settings due to COVID-19, we may not immediately see the full impact of this misguided regulation. But make no mistake: it undoubtedly makes students less safe.”  

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges and universities have a legal obligation to provide an environment free from discrimination because of sex. Over the past two decades, both Democratic and Republican administrations have interpreted the law and provided guidance to encourage survivors to come forward and report – until now. Sexual assault on college and university campuses and in K-12 schools is notoriously underreported and, too often, adjudication processes and survivor support services vary from campus to campus, making fairness and transparency all the more elusive. 

Senator Warner is an original cosponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would establish stronger incentives for all universities, including those in Virginia, to empower student survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.  

In January 2019, Sen. Warner laid out his concerns with a previous – though largely similar – version of the Administration’s proposal and called on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to go back to the drawing board with her approach. In September 2017, Sen. Warner called the Trump Administration’s decision to review previous guidelines on campus sexual assault a “red flag” and called for Secretary DeVos to prioritize the interests of sexual assault survivors in the rulemaking process. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), members of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus, applauded $36,475,848 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support Virginia’s five HBCUs. The federal funding was made possible through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support students, colleges, and universities as they cope with the immediate effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 

“We’re pleased that these federal dollars will assist Virginia’s five HBCUs in continuing to serve their students in the face of the current health and economic crisis,” said the Senators. “These institutions help provide traditionally-underserved communities the tools they need to succeed, and we will continue to advocate for them as they support their students during this ongoing crisis.”

The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund set aside just over $1 billion in federal funding for HBCUs and minority serving institutions. These institutions can use the funds to cover costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic, such as lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology, faculty and staff training, payroll, and costs of attendance for eligible students.

Virginia is home to Virginia Union University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Hampton University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg – all of which will receive federal from the CARES Act as follows:

School

 

Virginia State University

$9,803,132

Virginia Union University

$2,922,768

Virginia University of Lynchburg

$440,105

Hampton University

$9,884,324

Norfolk State University

$13,425,519

Sens. Warner and Kaine are strong supporters of Virginia’s HBCUs. Last year, the Senators successfully pushed to get the FUTURE Act signed into law to restore $255 million in federal funding for these critical institutions.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded more than $156 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Education to support Virginia students. The federal funding was made possible through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support students, colleges, and universities as they cope with the immediate effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“This critical funding will help colleges and universities provide Virginia students with the support they need during this unprecedented time,” said the Senators. “We are pleased to see these resources go towards helping provide emergency financial aid for Virginia students, and we will keep fighting for the additional resources our educational institutions need in a future package.”

The CARES Act established a nearly $14 billion Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Of this amount, approximately $12.6 billion is allocated for Direct Grants to Institutions of Higher Education. Of this amount, half must be used “to provide emergency financial aid grants to students for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.” The U.S. Department of Education has made available the first half of the $12.6 billion that must go directly to students attending colleges and universities nationwide.

Of the total $312.9 million in funding that Virginia institutions will receive in Direct Grants to Institutions of Higher Education, this initial $156.5 million must go directly to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants to help cover costs associated with the closures of Virginia’s institutions due to COVID-19, including course materials, food, health care, technology, housing, and other basic essentials. 

This funding will be distributed as follows:

School

Funding Amount:

George Mason University

                       10,427,512 

Virginia Commonwealth University

                       10,144,499 

Northern Virginia Community College

                       10,014,352 

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

                         9,699,494

Ecpi University

                         8,381,184

Old Dominion University

                         7,774,451

Liberty University

                         7,602,562

James Madison University

                         6,040,329

Tidewater Community College

                         5,999,978

University Of Virginia

                         5,858,355

Radford University

                         4,546,102

Chamberlain University

                         4,003,665

Norfolk State University

                         3,450,858

Virginia State University

                         3,427,905

Strayer University

                         2,896,061

Devry University

                         2,356,884

Hampton University

                         2,132,171

J Sargeant Reynolds Community College

                         2,075,592

College Of William & Mary

                         1,974,134

Thomas Nelson Community College

                         1,926,985

John Tyler Community College

                         1,724,392

Longwood University

                         1,610,289

Christopher Newport University

                         1,446,968

University Of Mary Washington

                         1,444,341

Germanna Community College

                         1,434,355

Virginia Western Community College

                         1,381,649

Stratford University

                         1,344,918

University Of Richmond

                         1,212,773

Fortis College

                         1,179,890

Lord Fairfax Community College

                         1,159,802

Virginia Union University

                         1,125,839

Marymount University

                         1,037,469

Centura College

                         1,034,606

Shenandoah University

                         1,020,101

University Of Lynchburg

                            987,990

Piedmont Virginia Community College

                            946,219

Blue Ridge Community College

                            931,016

Central Virginia Community College

                            908,909

Bridgewater College

                            899,990

Roanoke College

                            888,800

Southside Virginia Community College

                            838,923

Ferrum College

                            836,808

Southwest Virginia Community College

                            835,768

New River Community College

                            829,082

Danville Community College

                            802,111

Regent University

                            783,664

American National University

                            754,119

Virginia Wesleyan University

                            746,604

Patrick Henry Community College

                            741,862

Virginia Highlands Community College

                            699,385

Mountain Empire Community College

                            697,462

Emory & Henry College

                            631,120

Southern Virginia University

                            628,603

Tidewater Tech

                            621,653

Wytheville Community College

                            608,738

Rappahannock Community College

                            574,596

Virginia Military Institute

                            566,346

Mary Baldwin University

                            560,343

Randolph - Macon College

                            529,119

Averett University

                            527,830

Washington And Lee University

                            522,522

Eastern Mennonite University

                            446,713

Richard Bland College

                            410,367

Hollins University

                            399,857

University Of Virginia'S College At Wise (The)

                            394,483

Bluefield College

                            345,576

Hampden Sydney College

                            339,954

Randolph College

                            332,437

Columbia College

                            304,706

Edward Via Virginia College Of Osteopathic Medicine

                            294,902

Aviation Institute Of Maintenance

                            265,006

Standard Healthcare Services, College Of Nursing

                            258,155

Paul D. Camp Community College

                            256,309

Advanced Technology Institute

                            239,720

Dabney S Lancaster Community College

                            222,282

Chester Career College

                            215,795

Aviation Institute Of Maintenance

                            200,866

Rudy & Kelly Academy, A Paul Mitchell Partner School

                            189,470

Virginia University Of Lynchburg

                            178,959

Riverside College Of Health Careers

                            173,096

Eastern Shore Community College

                            169,168

Eastern Virginia Medical School

                            164,827

Eastern Virginia Career College

                            142,239

Sweet Briar College

                            136,245

Sylvain Melloul International Hair Academy

                            124,394

Paul Mitchell The School Roanoke

                            116,048

Centra College

                            114,790

Saint Michael College Of Allied Health

                            109,860

Sentara College Of Health Sciences

                              89,280

Tomorrow'S Image Barber & Beauty Academy Of Virginia

                              77,823

American Massage & Bodywork Institute

                              75,979

Chrysm Institute Of Esthetics (The)

                              71,012

Bon Secours Memorial College Of Nursing

                              70,535

Southside College Of Health Sciences

                              68,544

Henrico County-Saint Mary'S Hospital School Of Practical Nursing

                              55,215

Iglobal University

                              47,519

Culpeper Cosmetology Training Center

                              41,841

Virginia University Of Integrative Medicine

                              39,718

Fairfax University Of America

                              39,148

Esthetic Institute (The)

                              38,861

Northern Virginia School Of Therapeutic Massage

                             35,995

Dermal Science International Aesthetics & Nail Academy

                              34,171

Cayce/Reilly School Of Massage

                              30,794

Appalachian College Of Pharmacy

                              30,552

Avi Career Training

                              26,599

Wave Leadership College

                              23,758

Luckes Beauty Academy

                              22,630

Union Presbyterian Seminary

                              20,805

Appalachian School Of Law

                              20,805

Virginia School Of Hair Design

                              20,024

Another Level Barbering And Cosmetology School

                              18,966

Central School Of Practical Nursing

                              15,592

Institute Of Advanced Medical Esthetics

                              15,313

Suffolk Beauty Academy

                              14,328

Staunton School Of Cosmetology

                              14,189

School Board - City Of Va. Beach, Va. Beach School Of Prctl. Nrsg.

                              14,037

Sovah School Of Health Professions

                              11,643

Bon Secours St Mary'S Hospital School Of Medical Imaging

                              11,295

Bethel College

                                9,771

Divine Mercy University

                                6,325

Virginia Beach Theological Seminary

                                1,535

University Of Management And Technology (The)

                                1,347

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined 33 of their colleagues in a letter to House and Senate leadership requesting robust funding for all K-12 students to have adequate home internet connectivity given school closures due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Senators expressed their disappointment with the lack of such funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that recently passed Congress, despite their repeated call for resources dedicated to distance learning. The lawmakers urged leadership in both chambers of Congress to support $2 billion in E-Rate funding in the next coronavirus relief package for students to learn at home.

“Children without connectivity are at risk of not only being unable to complete their homework during this pandemic, but being unable to continue their overall education,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to Senate and House leadership. “Congress must address this issue by providing financial support specifically dedicated to expanding home internet access in the next emergency relief package so that no child falls behind in their education.”

In their letter, the lawmakers specifically request at least $2 billion in E-Rate funds for schools and libraries to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or other devices with Wi-Fi capability to students without adequate connectivity at their home.

The coronavirus pandemic has shined a bright light on the “homework gap” experienced by the 12 million students in this country who do not have internet access at home and are unable to complete their homework — at a time when more than 70 percent of educators assign schoolwork that requires internet access. Research has shown that the homework gap affects students in both rural and urban areas and disproportionately affects lower-income students and students of color. Students without internet access at home consistently score lower in reading, math, and science. Without Congressional action, this existing inequity will only be exacerbated by the high number of schools that are suspending in-person classes and have transitioned to remote learning over the internet to protect the health of students, faculty, and staff.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

Last month, Warner and Kaine called on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to provide clear guidance for school districts and institutions of higher education, as well as families and students, following widespread school closures across the country due to the spread of the coronavirus. In their letter, they highlighted that many students cannot access online learning because they do not have a computer or internet access.

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