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EDUCATION STABILIZATION FUND

Last month, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  This $2 trillion package of assistance measures includes $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund.  At Secretary DeVos’ urging, the Department is working to make funds available as quickly as possible.

The Secretary announced the first tranche of funding on April 9, making more than $6 billion available to institutions of higher education to provide direct emergency cash grants to students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by COVID-19.  Students may use these funds for course materials and technology, as well as food, housing, health care, and child care.  In order to access the funds, the Department must receive a signed certification from the institution affirming it will distribute the funds in accordance with applicable law.  The institution will then determine which students will receive the cash grants.  Allocations are set by formula prescribed within the CARES Act, weighted significantly by the number of full-time students who are federal Pell Grant-eligible but also considering the total student enrollment of the institution and the number of students who were not enrolled full-time online before the COVID-19 outbreak.

The CARES Act provides over $14 billion to support higher education students and institutions.  Institutions will receive allocations and guidance for the institutional share of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund in the coming weeks.

Then, on April 14, the Secretary announced the next tranche of funding, making nearly $3 billion available to governors.  The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund is a flexible emergency block grant designed to enable governors to decide how best to meet the needs of their students, schools (including charter schools and non-public schools), institutions of higher education, and other education-related organizations.  In order to access the funds, the Department must receive a signed streamlined application.  It expects to obligate funds within three business days of receiving an application.  Again, allocations are set by formula prescribed within the CARES Act.

The Department will address the $13.5 billion in CARES Act funding for K-12 schools in the coming days.COVID-19 INFORMATION

Over the last two weeks, the White House, the Department of Education, and other federal agencies have released more guidance to support schools, educators, and families regarding COVID-19.  Many of the new documents are listed below.  The Department continues to update its COVID-19 information and resources web page with the most current information, and any questions for the Department may be directed to COVID-19@ed.gov.

Meanwhile, Secretary DeVos was on the Glenn Beck Show and the Lars Larson Show to discuss the Department’s COVID-19 response.

OCR ANNUAL REPORT

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) “Annual Report to the Secretary, the President, and Congress: Fiscal Years 2017-18” highlights OCR’s accomplishments, substantive achievements, and performance results during the first two fiscal years of the Trump Administration.  Notably, OCR resolved almost double the number of complaints per year compared to the previous eight years.  It also resolved, on average, some 3,200 more complaints than it received during these fiscal years.  Moreover, it has attained a 60% increase in complaints resolved with change, or complaint resolutions with institutions agreeing to address a civil rights violation or concern.  OCR has recorded, during these two fiscal years, a 30% increase in Title VI allegations resolved with change, a 60% increase in the number of disability-related allegations resolved with change, and an 80% increase in Title IX allegations resolved with change.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

The Department is currently soliciting applications under several discretionary grant competitions.

  • Comprehensive Literacy State Development Program.  This program awards funding to advance literacy skills, through the use of evidence-based practices, activities, and interventions, including pre-literacy skills, reading, and writing, for children from birth through twelfth-grade, with an emphasis on disadvantaged children, including children living in poverty, English Learners, and children with disabilities.  (Note: The deadline for applications is June 2.)
  • Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program.  This program helps states, school districts, and non-profit organizations to develop, implement, improve, or expand comprehensive Performance-Based Compensation Systems or Human Capital Management Systems for teachers, principals, and other school leaders, especially for those in high-need schools that raise student academic achievement and close the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students.  (Note: The deadline for applications is June 2.)
  • Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) Program.  The SEED program provides funding to increase the number of highly effective educators by supporting the implementation of evidence-based practices that prepare, develop, or enhance teaching skills.  (Note: The deadline for applications is June 12.)
  • Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program Mid-phase Grants.  The EIR program is designed to generate and validate solutions to persistent education challenges and to support the expansion of those solutions to serve substantially larger numbers of students.  The Department expects that Mid-phase grants will be used to fund implementation and rigorous evaluation of a program that has been successfully implemented under an Early-phase grant or other initiative meeting similar criteria.  Mid-phase grants are supported by evidence that demonstrates a statistically significant effect on improving student outcomes or other relevant outcomes based on moderate evidence.  (Note: The deadline for applications is June 15.)

Separately, Secretary DeVos announced $65 million in new grants to fund the creation and expansion of more than 100 high-quality public charter schools in underserved communities across the country.  Under the Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Program, more students will have the opportunity to move off waitlists into schools of their choice.  Over 95% of the funding will go towards schools within Qualified Opportunity Zones.

TEACHER TRAINING PRIORITY

This week, the Secretary proposed a new funding priority for the EIR program to empower teachers, through stipends or vouchers, to select and access professional development courses and opportunities that are relevant to their personal needs or career goals, instead of having one-size-fits all programming dictated to them.  The EIR program — as outlined above — was created to explore ways to improve academic achievement for high-needs students.  This proposed priority will help the Department explore whether personalized professional development has a positive effect on instructional practice, and, in turn, a positive impact on student success.  The agency seeks feedback from the public about this priority.  Comments are welcome until May 13.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Although this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll was canceled, First Lady Melania Trump and Secretary DeVos celebrated students’ Easter egg designs representing the diversity and beauty of the country.
  • On April 3, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Andrew DeMello to serve as Inspector General of the Department.  DeMello is a trial attorney for the Tax Division at the Department of Justice, where he manages all aspects of complex, affirmative, and defensive litigation in U.S. District and Bankruptcy courts.  Since fall 2019, he has been on detail to the Inspector General’s Office at the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The Department published the list of semifinalists for the 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which honors some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.
  • A National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Data Point examines how the early labor market outcomes of public high school graduates vary by career and technical education credits earned during high school.
  • Another NCES report introduces new information about public and private K-12 school teachers.
  • Furthermore, NCES released the U.S. Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) “Skills Map: State and County Indicators of Adult Literacy and Numeracy.”  This tool allows users to access estimates of adult literacy and numeracy proficiency in all states and counties, based on data collected in three rounds of PIAAC data collection (2012, 2014, and 2017).
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently announced $22.2 million in grants for 224 humanities projects across the nation.  These grants will enable the production of a documentary on singer and civil rights pioneer Marian Anderson, support a Norman Rockwell Museum exhibition on Rockwell’s Four Freedoms series, and bolster the digital infrastructure of the Walt Whitman Archive, among other worthwhile projects.

QUOTE TO NOTE

“This extraordinarily flexible emergency block grant empowers you [governors] to decide how best to meet the current needs of students, schools (including charter schools and non-public schools), postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations in your state so that faculty continue to teach and students continue to learn.  My Department will not micromanage how you spend these funds, but I encourage you, at a time when so many school boards, superintendents, and institutions of higher education have had to close their brick and mortar campuses for the balance of the school year, to focus these resources on ensuring that all students continue to learn most likely through some form of remote learning.  They and their families are depending on your leadership to ensure that they don’t fall behind.”

— Secretary Betsy DeVos (4/14/20), in a cover letter to governors on the nearly $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund

UPCOMING EVENTS

Congress established Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.  This year, Days of Remembrance will be commemorated on April 21, with observances occurring from April 19 to April 26.

Please join Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Mark Schultz, five state vocational rehabilitation agency directors, and the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center as they present on innovative strategies to deliver services to individuals with disabilities by distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This webinar, on April 20 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Eastern Time, is part of the Department’s ongoing VR100 series.

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