A Better Bargain
Race to the Top
Student Loan Interest Rates
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
A Better Bargain
In a July 24 speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, President Obama identified education as one of the cornerstones of a strong middle class. "The days when the wages for a worker with a high school degree could keep pace with the earnings of somebody who got some sort of higher education are over," he explained. Our country needs to provide "an education that prepares our children and our workers for the global competition that they're going to face…. If we don't make this investment, we're going to put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades."
Some excerpts on education:
Preschool for All. "I'm going to keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available for every four-year-old in America. Not just because we know it works for our kids but because it provides a vital support system for working parents."
- ConnectED. "I'm going to take action in the education area to spur innovation that doesn't require Congress. Today, for example, as we speak, federal agencies are moving on my plan to connect 99% of America's students to high-speed Internet over the next five years. We've already begun meeting with business leaders and tech entrepreneurs and innovative educators to identify the best ideas for redesigning our high schools so that they teach the skills required for a high-tech economy."
Community College to Career. "I've asked Congress to start a Community College to Career initiative, so that workers can earn the skills that high-tech jobs demand without leaving their hometown. And, I'm going to challenge CEOs from some of America's best companies to hire more Americans who've got what it takes to fill that job opening but have been laid off for so long that nobody is giving their resume an honest look."
College Affordability. "I'm going to use the power of my office over the next few months to highlight a topic that's straining the budgets of just about every American family: the soaring cost of higher education. Everybody is touched by this, including your President, who had a whole bunch of loans he had to pay off. Three years ago, I worked with Democrats to reform the student loan system so that taxpayer dollars stopped padding the pockets of big banks and, instead, helped more kids afford college. Then, I capped loan repayments at 10% of monthly incomes for responsible borrowers…. And, this week, we're working with both parties to reverse the doubling of student loan rates that happened a few weeks ago because of congressional inaction. So, this is all a good start -- but it isn't enough. Families and taxpayers can't just keep paying more and more and more into an undisciplined system where costs just keep on going up and up and up. We'll never have enough loan money, we'll never have enough grant money, to keep up with costs that are going up 5%, 6%, 7% a year. We've got to get more out of what we pay for…. In the coming months, I will lay out an aggressive strategy to shake up the system, tackle rising costs, and improve value for students and their families. It is critical that we make sure that college is affordable for every single American who's willing to work for it."
Following his remarks at Knox College, the President delivered a similar speech at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
Race to the Top
On July 30, the Department announced it had finalized the application for the 2013 Race to the Top-District competition, which will provide almost $120 million to support school districts in implementing local education reforms that personalize instruction, close achievement gaps, and take full advantage of 21st century tools that prepare each student for college and careers. The program sets a high bar to fund districts with a track record of success, clear vision for reform, and innovative plans to transform the learning environment and accelerate student achievement.
The program criteria invites applications from districts or groups of districts proposing to serve at least 2,000 students -- or groups of 10 or more districts proposing to serve less than 2,000 students -- with at least 40% of participating students (across all participating schools) from low-income families. Districts will choose to apply for funding to support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a set of schools, within specific grade levels or select subjects. Also, districts must demonstrate a commitment to Race to the Top's four core reform areas and have sign-off on their plan from the local superintendent, local school board president, and local teacher union/association president (where applicable). The Department plans to support high-quality proposals from across a variety of districts, including rural and non-rural, as well as those participating in a Race to the Top state grant and those not participating. The program offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships to sustain their work and provide services that help meet students' academic, social, and emotional needs outside of the classroom.
The Department expects to make five to 10 awards. Awards will range from $4 million to $30 million, depending on the population served through the plan. Districts are asked to submit an intent to apply by August 23. Applications are due October 3. Grants will be announced no later than December 31. (Note: To assist applicants, the agency is hosting technical assistance webinars and has posted answers to Frequently Asked Questions.)
The Department has announced that Dr. Libby Doggett will be named Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning. She will lead the Office of Early Learning within the agency's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), which jointly administers the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) program with the Department of Health and Human Services. This fall, the agencies will hold another RTT-ELC competition. Dr. Doggett recently directed the Pew Home Visiting Campaign, partnering with state legislators and other leaders to promote effective state policies and investments in high-quality, home-based programs for vulnerable new and expectant families. Previously, she led Pre-K Now, Pew's 10-year campaign that advanced high-quality, voluntary preschool nationally.
California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin will each receive a supplemental RTT-ELC award to improve quality and expand access to early learning programs throughout their states.
A new blog post showcases arts integration in early learning.
A new report from the Department's National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) synthesizes the results of dozens of research studies in early intervention and early childhood education. Contributions to the knowledge base are in four focal areas: early childhood classroom environments and general instructional practices, educational practices designed to impact children's academic and social outcomes, measuring young children's skills and learning, and professional development for early educators.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiated a thorough review and modernization of the E-Rate program built around three goals: increased broadband capacity, cost-effective purchasing, and streamlined program administration. Over the past 15 years, support provided by the E-Rate has helped revolutionize schools’ and libraries’ access to modern communications networks, but the needs of both schools and libraries are changing. According to a 2010 survey of E-Rate applicants, half had slower Internet connection speeds than the average American home, and 39% cited cost of service as the greatest barrier to better meeting their needs. Moreover, per an American Library Association survey, one-quarter of libraries still have broadband speeds of 1.5 Mbps or less, and only 9% of libraries have speeds of 100 Mbps or greater. In light of these findings, there is a consensus that the E-Rate needs to be updated and revitalized with a clear focus on ensuring that all schools and libraries have affordable access to quality broadband. (Note: Secretary Duncan's statement on the FCC action is available online.)
Also, a diverse set of leaders from across the country have expressed support for the FCC's action.
Student Loan Interest Rates
This week, Congress approved a bipartisan compromise to keep student loan interest rates low this year. This compromise -- similar to a plan proposed by the President in the spring -- cuts rates on all new loans this year and saves a typical undergraduate student $1,500 over the life of the loan. The plan allows borrowers to benefit from the low interest rates currently available in the marketplace and guarantees that borrowers are able to lock-in these rates over the life of their loans. In the future, fixed rates will be determined each year by market conditions, helping ensure that borrowers' rates are more in line with the government's own cost of borrowing, while capping how high rates can rise. The plan also represents a very clear rejection of proposals designed to raise student rates in order to reduce the deficit. (Note: Secretary Duncan's statement on the compromise is available online.)
Also, federal bank regulatory agencies issued a joint statement encouraging financial institutions "to work constructively with private student loan borrowers experiencing financial difficulties."
Odds and Ends
New blog posts capture the excitement of this summer's "Let's Read! Let's Move!" enrichment series. In the second event, on July 17, the Secretary was joined by actress and singer Phylicia Rashad and Washington Kastles tennis coach Murphy Jensen. In the third event, on July 24, the Secretary was joined by Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan, astronaut George Zamka, new Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, and U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Johnny Isakson (Georgia). And, just yesterday, the Secretary was joined by actor Hill Harper, basketball player Jeremy Lin, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, and D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier. The final event will be held August 6.
Kelly Jubic, a college graduate, current graduate student, and high school teacher, offers a few tricks on how to save for college.
On July 29, the Department published in the Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) updating regulations governing the Federal Direct Loan, the Federal Family Education Loan, and the Perkins Loan programs. A negotiated rulemaking committee completed its work on these proposed rules last year. Comments are due August 28.
Earlier this week, the Secretary met with the DREAM Riders, a group of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) who have been granted deferred action through the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
A state legislator, elementary school principal, testing and measurement expert, and two parents/general public members have been appointed by Secretary Duncan to the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB). The new appointees will help set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP makes objective information on student performance available to policymakers and the public at the national, state, and local levels for nearly a dozen subjects.
Quote to Note
"I've asked my team to shake the trees all across the country for some of the best ideas out there for keeping college costs down, so that as students prepare to go back to school, I'm in a position to lay out what's going to be an aggressive strategy to shake up the system to make sure that middle class students, working class students, poor kids who have the drive and the wherewithal and want to get a good college education, they can get it without basically mortgaging their entire future. We can make this happen. But, this is an example of the kind of thing we’ve got to focus on, instead of a bunch of distractions in Washington."
-- President Barack Obama (7/24/13), in a speech on the economy at the University of Central Missouri
The Green Strides Webinar Series has nearly 40 sessions scheduled through next spring, featuring programs and resources from, among others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
Register now for the third annual President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge National Gathering, September 23 and 24 on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Participants will have opportunities to tell stories about what is happening on their campus, learn about best practices, and celebrate ongoing work, so that they will return to their campuses truly inspired to take the President's challenge to the next level.
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