Press Room NEWSLETTERS
March 14, 2014

ED Review ... ...a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

What's inside...
FY 2015 Budget
Focus on Early Learning
Focus on Higher Education
Community Conversations
Let's Get Cooking!
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

FY 2015 Budget

On March 4, after sending his annual budget request to Congress, President Obama visited Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C., highlighting the school's preschool program as a model for the nation. "These kids may not be the most excited people in town on budget day," the President said, "but my budget is designed with their generation and future generations in mind. In my State of the Union address, I laid out an agenda to restore opportunity for all people.... The budget I sent Congress this morning lays out how we'll implement this agenda in a balanced and responsible way. It's a roadmap for creating jobs with good wages and expanding opportunity for all Americans. And at a time when our deficits have been cut in half, it allows us to meet our obligations to future generations without leaving them a mountain of debt."

The President is requesting $68.6 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education, an increase of $1.3 billion—or 1.9%—over the Fiscal Year 2014 level. "The President's budget request reflects his strong belief that education is a vital investment in the nation's economic competitiveness, in its people, and in its communities," Secretary Duncan said. "Despite the encouraging progress we've seen, wide opportunity and achievement gaps continue to hurt many families, which puts our nation's economy and future at risk."

The President proposed a new initiative called Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity, which would create incentives for states and school districts to drive comprehensive change in identifying and closing both achievement and opportunity gaps. Grants would enhance data systems to sharpen the focus on the greatest disparities and invest in strong teachers and leaders in high-need schools. Grants would also support other strategies that mitigate the effects of concentrated poverty, such as expanded learning time, access to rigorous coursework, and comprehensive student supports. (See also Equity of Opportunity.)

The President also proposed the new ConnectEDucators program, which would provide funding to help teachers and principals better leverage new resources made available through technology to improve college- and career-ready instruction and personalize learning. Technology can help educators teach to more rigorous standards, but technology alone cannot improve student learning. Educators must know how to make the best use of technology—such as creating and sharing high-quality open digital content—and how to use data to help students learn. (See also Teachers and Leaders.)

Among the continued priorities, targeted to strengthen the education pipeline from cradle-to-career, are:

  • making high-quality preschool, infant and toddler care, and home visiting available for children (more);
  • improving affordability, quality, and success in postsecondary education (more); and
  • making schools safer and creating positive learning environments (more).

Want to dig deeper? Among the resources online are a press release, a blog post, the budget summary, and fact sheets on cross-cutting issues. Furthermore, one can view video from the agency's budget briefing for stakeholders and listen to the agency's press call.

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Focus on Early Learning

Last week, Secretary Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius visited the newest preschool among the Child and Family Network Centers in Alexandria, Virginia, to observe a quality bilingual program in action and discuss the President's budget request for FY 2015. He proposed $500 million—double last year's funding—for Preschool Development Grants and reintroduced the Preschool for All initiative, with an initial $1.3 billion investment. There is also additional funding requests for Head Start, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grants, and evidence-based home visiting.

This week, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services held a stakeholder briefing on federal investments in early learning and development (view video).

Also, both agencies are seeking additional input on the 2014 Preschool Development Grants competition through a dedicated web site, as well as a public meeting March 20, from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, in Washington, D.C. (watch live).

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Focus on Higher Education

Last week, at an event with the First Lady at Coral Reef High School, President Obama laid out details of his plan to equip all Americans with the education and skills they need to compete in today's global economy and launched a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion initiative to give more students the opportunity to attend, afford, and graduate from college. "Unfortunately, there are still a lot of young people all across the country who say the cost of college is holding them back," he asserted. "Some of you may have sat around the kitchen table with your parents, wondering about whether you'll be able to afford it. FAFSA is—by far—the easiest way to answer that question."

Under the FAFSA Completion Initiative, the Department will partner with states so that they can identify individual students who have not completed the FAFSA. States can then use this limited information to support school and district efforts to increase FAFSA completion, starting in the 2014-15 school year. These efforts build on the success of a pilot project launched by the agency in 2010 working directly with about 100 districts. (Note: In a letter to the nation's governors, Secretary Duncan explains the history, requirements, and procedures for this initiative.)

Also, this morning, the Department announced new steps to address growing concerns about burdensome student loan debt by requiring career colleges to do a better job of preparing students for gainful employment—or risk losing access to federal student aid. The proposed regulations will help to strengthen students' options for higher education by giving all career training programs the opportunity to improve, while stopping the flow of federal funding to the lowest-performing programs that fail to do so.

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Community Conversations

At the National League of Cities' (NLC) Congressional City Conference, Secretary Duncan announced the joint signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining a plan to strengthen partnerships among federal and local governments, schools, families, and other organizations. As part of this MOU, the Department and NLC will participate in community conversations hosted by mayors focused on early learning, afterschool/out-of-school time, and/or postsecondary success. The conversations will also focus on closing achievement gaps (including for young men of color) and increasing student outcomes, including non-academic outcomes (like social-emotional skills). (Note: At the conference, the Secretary shared a handout, highlighting cities that are making rapid progress in early learning, K-12 education, and higher education.)

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Let's Get Cooking!

The First Lady is again challenging America's most creative junior chefs to put their talents to use and whip up delicious lunchtime recipes. The third "Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids' State Dinner" invites children, ages 8-12, and their parents/guardians to create and submit an original lunch recipe that is healthy, affordable, and tasty. All recipes must adhere to the guidance that supports the Department of Agriculture's MyPlate. Recipes must also represent each of the food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy foods, with fruits and vegetables making up roughly half of the plate or recipe. Fifty-six children and their parent/guardian—one pair from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. territories—will be flown to Washington, D.C., to attend a Kids' State Dinner at the White House, during which a selection of the winning recipes will be served. Recipes may be submitted online through April 5.

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Odds and Ends

  • Jim Shelton was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Deputy Secretary of Education.

  • The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) published today a Notice Inviting Applications for awards up to $3 million each in the "Development" category of the 2014 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant competition. In its fifth round of competition, the i3 program continues its aim to develop and expand practices that accelerate student achievement and prepare all students to succeed in college and careers. This year's areas of focus include English Learners, students with disabilities, and technology-enabled learning, among others.

  • Secretary Duncan announced that 10 more states—Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, and Texas—will receive more than $95 million in awards from the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools.

  • The White House hosted more than a dozen young filmmakers at the first-ever Student Film Festival. Students were asked to make a video explaining why technology is important and how they expect technology will change educational experiences. The 16 official selections are available for viewing.

  • In February, honoring Career and Technical Education Month, student representatives from nine of the country's top career and technical student organizations traveled to the Department to meet with the Secretary. Some of these students already attend college; others are high school students making postsecondary plans. All of the students were eager to explain the ways that their organizations help make sure that members can seize opportunities in today's competitive economy.

  • "Condition of America's Public School Facilities: 2012-13," a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), provides national data on public school facilities, such as the condition of 17 building systems and features, the condition of seven outdoor features, the estimated cost of repairs/renovations/modernizations required to put the school's on-site buildings in good condition, the year the school's central instructional building was constructed and last renovated, and the year of the school's last major building replacement/addition.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to China March 19-26. During the trip, she will be focusing on the power and importance of education, in her own life and in the lives of young people worldwide. She will also be visiting major historical and cultural sites and share with U.S. students the stories of Chinese students—emphasizing learning from one another globally. (Note: PBS Learning Media and Discovery Education will offer engagement opportunities for students surrounding the trip, as well as classrooms resources exploring the geography, people, and culture of China.)

  • The White House invites elementary and middle school students to submit original poster designs for the 2014 Easter Egg Roll. This year's theme, "Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape," promotes the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative to help kids grow up healthy and reach their full potential. The deadline for submissions is March 21, and the winning design will be part of the White House's 2014 Easter Egg Roll program.

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Quote to Note

"Our budget is about choices. It's about our values. As a country, we've got to make a decision if we're going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans or if we're going to make smart investments necessary to create jobs and grow our economy and expand opportunity for every American. At a time when our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years, we've got to decide if we're going to keep squeezing the middle class or if we're going to continue to reduce the deficits responsibly, while taking steps to grow and strengthen the middle class. The American people have made clear, time and again, which approach they prefer. That's the approach that my budget offers. That's why I'm going to fight for it this year and in the years to come as President."

        President Barack Obama (3/4/14), in remarks announcing his FY 2015 budget request

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Upcoming Events

Today is Pi Day, the unofficial holiday dedicated to the irrational number that is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

March is widely known as "Arts in the Schools Month." Under the leadership of national associations representing teachers of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, a variety of activities will unfold throughout the month. Some activities will showcase the achievements of students, while other activities will focus on the professional growth of arts educators committed to arts-rich schools for all students.

Communities are better prepared to withstand an emergency and recover quickly when everyone is involved. Yet, despite an increase in weather-related disasters, nearly 70% of Americans have not participated in a preparedness drill or exercise—aside from a fire drill—at their home, school, or workplace in the past two years. In an effort to continue building resilience, the federal family is pleased to announce America's PrepareAthon!. The first America's PrepareAthon! National Day of Action is April 30. It will focus on preparing individuals, organizations, and communities for tornados, hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires. (Note: All are invited to participate in a webinar—March 18 or March 20—to learn more about the campaign and ways to be involved.)

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Program Analyst—Adam Honeysett, (202) 401-3003, Adam.Honeysett@ed.gov
To be added or removed from distribution, or submit comments (we welcome your feedback!), contact Adam Honeysett. Or, visit http://www2.ed.gov/news/newsletters/edreview/index.html.


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Last Modified: 03/14/2014