New Grant Awards
Pay As You Earn
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
On December 19, five days after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama announced that Vice President Biden will lead a task force charged with identifying concrete proposals for reducing the country's epidemic of gun violence. "We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides," the President said at a press conference at the White House. "There's no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. We're going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We're going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence. And, any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts. But, the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing." Secretary Duncan is among the Cabinet officials serving on the task force, along with Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. The President is demanding recommendations no later than this month. "This is not some Washington commission," he stated. "This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now.... I urge the new Congress to hold votes on these measures [in 2013] in a timely manner." (Note: The President's initial statement on the shooting is here, and his remarks at the interfaith prayer vigil for the victims and their families is here.)
Secretary Duncan sent a message to all U.S. school districts, sharing some resources from the Department's Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center, including helping youth and children recover from traumatic events and creating and updating school emergency management plans.
Also, after traveling to Newtown to talk privately with Sandy Hook educators and attend the wake for principal Dawn Hochsprung, the Secretary issued a video message expressing his deep gratitude to teachers school leaders, and staff for their "quiet heroism" since the shooting in responding to students' concerns and restoring a sense of safety and normalcy in the nation's schools. He also spoke about the importance of school safety at Neval Thomas Elementary School in Washington, D.C., at an event where he also announced the 17 winners of the 2012 Promise Neighborhoods grant competition (see below). And, he was interviewed by PBS correspondent Gwen Ifill for a special report on gun violence.
Applications are currently available for the Department's 2013-14 Teaching Ambassador Fellowship, offering highly motivated and innovative school teachers and instructional leaders the unique opportunity to contribute their knowledge and experience to the national dialogue on education, and, in turn, facilitate discussions with educators across the country. Since 2008, this competitive program has enabled a total of 80 outstanding teachers to work with the agency. Once again, the fellowship includes two tracks. Up to six Washington Fellows will become full-time federal employees in Washington, D.C., participating in policy discussions and working on education programs, while up to six Classroom Fellows will work on a part-time basis from their home communities, primarily by sharing public information and facilitating conversation among educators at the state and local level. Fellows will be selected based on their record of leadership, impact on student achievement, communication skills, and insight from classroom experiences. Applications are due January 29 by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, and fellows will be named by early summer.
New Grant Awards
Before the end of the calendar year, the Department announced grants under two competitive programs.
On December 18, Secretary Duncan announced that all 20 of the highest-rated applicants in the 2012 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition secured their required private matching funds and became official grantees. Together, they will share more than $140 million in federal funding to expand innovative practices designed to accelerate student achievement and help prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers. The i3 program announced the 20 highest-rated applicantsselected from 727 applications and representing a cross-section of school districts, institutions of higher education, and non-profit organizationsin November. Applicants had four weeks to secure private funds, either in cash or in-kind. Private donors are providing about $16 million to support this year's i3 projects. With the addition of the 2012 winners, the i3 program includes 92 grantees that are using nearly $1 billion in federal funding and $162 million in private funds to address persistent education challenges and scale-up effective solutions.
Then, on December 21, the Secretary announced 17 winners of a 2012 Promise Neighborhoods grant. Launched in 2010, Promise Neighborhoods is a community-focused program that funds local-led efforts to improve educational opportunities and supply comprehensive health, safety, and support services within high-poverty neighborhoods. This year's awards are split between 10 one-year planning grants, totaling more than $4.7 million, and seven five-year implementation grants, totaling nearly $30 million. (Among the winners are six implementation grantees that will build on previous work supported through 2010 or 2011 planning grants.) Remaining 2012 funds will go toward second-year funding for the five implementation grants awarded in 2011. To date, nearly $100 million in Promise Neighborhoods funding has been awarded to over 50 communities representing some 700 schools. To help leverage and sustain grant work, 1,000 national, state, and local organizations have signed-on to partner with a Promise Neighborhood site.
Pay As You Earn
A new federal student loan repayment plan went into effect late last month that could lower borrowers' monthly bills. The plan, known as "Pay as You Earn," caps monthly payments for many recent graduates at an amount that is affordable based on their income. This option follows through on President Obama's pledge to provide borrowers with relief on their payments and help them responsibly manage their debt.
The Pay as You Earn plan, which the President first announced in October 2011, caps payments for federal Direct Student Loans at 10% of discretionary income for eligible borrowers. The Department estimates as many as 1.6 million borrowers could reduce their monthly bills with this plan. The plan complements other repayment plans offered to help borrowers manage their debt, including Income-Based Repayment (IBR), which caps payments at 15% of borrowers' discretionary income. (Borrowers who are ineligible for Pay as You Earn may still qualify for IBR, which more than 1.3 million borrowers already use.)
While borrowers may pay more in interest in the long run, Pay as You Earn can provide relief on loan payments, especially in early years of repayment, and help ensure that borrowers avoid the consequences of defaulting on their student loans.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (see fact sheet), passed by a bipartisan majority in the House and Senate and signed into law by the President this week, extends middle-class tax cuts and credits for working families. It also postpones sequestration for two monthsuntil March 1giving Congress more time to work on a plan to prevent automatic spending cuts. This postponement is fully paid for with $1 of revenue for every $1 of spending, with spending balanced between defense and domestic programs.
Odds and Ends
The Department is soliciting public comment on a new report, "Expanding Evidence Approaches for Learning in a Digital World," which calls for smart uses of emerging data generated by the use of learning technologies. It presents educators, policymakers, and funders with an expanded view of evidence approaches and sources of data that can help them with decision-making.
In the most recent session of the Department's Student Voices Series, following a congressional hearing on discipline at which she testified, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle met with youth leaders from the Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE).
A Treasury Department report, prepared in conjunction with the Education Department, illustrates that investing in postsecondary education expands job opportunities, boosts America's competitiveness, and supports the kind of income mobility that is fundamental to a growing economy.
New studies from the Department's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) look at first-year undergraduate remedial coursetaking and trends in debt for bachelor degree recipients a year after graduation.
Last month, Secretary Sebelius announced more than $80 million in Affordable Care Act funding for 197 school-based health center programs. This funding will allow school-based health centers to serve an additional 384,000 students.
Quote to Note
"Since I've been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting.... And, in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the nation, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big citiesvictims who, much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And, to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. But, that can't be an excuse for inaction.... If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtownas well as communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before thatthen surely we have an obligation to try."
|||President Barack Obama (12/16/12), speaking at the interfaith prayer vigil in Newtown, Connecticut|
The Corporation for National and Community Service is asking Americans to appropriately honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy on January 21 by making the holiday a day ONversus a day off. King Day became a national day of service in 1994, when Congress passed legislation to give the holiday even greater significance. A dedicated web site enables organizers to register projects nationwide. (Note: January 21 is also Inauguration Day.)
Digital Learning Day (February 6) is a national celebration of teachers, shining a spotlight on successful instructional practice and effective use of technology in classrooms.
Approximately 30 free sessions are already scheduled for the Department's Green Strides Webinar Series through the fall.
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