Press Room NEWSLETTERS
February 24, 2017

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...
Secretary Betsy Devos
Addressing ED Staff
Engaging External Parties
ESSA Update
Title IX Guidance
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Secretary Betsy Devos

On February 7, Elisabeth "Betsy" DeVos was confirmed as the nation's 11th Secretary of Education.  After the vote, she tweeted, "I appreciate the Senate's diligence & am honored to serve as @usedgov Secretary.  Let's improve options & outcomes for all US students."

Later that day, joined by her husband, she was sworn into office by Vice President Mike Pence (video).

In an earlier tweet, President Donald Trump wrote, "Betsy DeVos is a reformer, and she is going to be a great Education Sec. for our kids!"

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Addressing ED Staff

On her first day in office, Secretary DeVos spent time with Department staff.  In remarks, she thanked the agency's career employees for overseeing a smooth and professional transition.  Below are some highlights (video).

"Let me start simply by saying 'thank you' to each of you—those here in the Department and those across the country who work every day to make education better.  Americans have tremendous respect for all of those within and outside of these walls who work to make more opportunity available through better education.

"I am here to serve—with you.  I am committed to working with everyone and anyone—from every corner of the country, from every walk of life, from every background, and with those who supported my nomination and those who did not—to protect, strengthen, and create new world-class education opportunities for America's students.

"Together, we have a noble and consequential mission to serve.  There is no greater achievement in the world than positively changing the life of a child by bending the arc or breaking the cycle through education.  This is what motivates me.  This is why education as a life-long pursuit is my passion.  I know this is a passion we share.

"In building strong teams, embracing diversity and inclusion are key elements for success.  Diversity may be viewed as cliché, but I believe that getting to know, working with, befriending, and including people who are different from ourselves is enriching and expanding.  And if we model it ourselves, how much easier will it be to encourage students to do the same?

"In addition to modeling inclusion and a love of life-long learning, the Department also has a unique role in protecting students.  We believe students deserve learning environments that foster innovation and curiosity and are also free from harm.

"While we may have disagreements, we can—and must—come together, find common ground, and put the needs of our students first.  And when we do disagree, let us set an example by being sincere and honest, passionate but civil, while never losing sight of our shared mission.

"To everyone on this team, my challenge to you is simple: be bold, think big, and act to serve students.  And I will promise you this: Together, we will find new ways in which we can positively transform education."

Prior to her remarks, the Secretary visited staff in the Potomac Center Plaza and Union Center Plaza buildings.  She continued visiting with staff in the Lyndon Baines Johnson building after her remarks.

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Engaging External Parties

Over the last two-and-a-half weeks, the Secretary has also been meeting with students, educators, and stakeholders.

On February 9, she traveled to Howard University to meet with President Dr. Wayne Frederick and student leaders.  "It was a pleasure to meet with [Dr. Frederick] and several student leaders this morning," she said in a subsequent statement.  "We had a robust discussion around the many challenges facing higher education and the important role of [Historically Black Colleges and Universities].  Howard University plays a unique and valuable role in the fabric of our higher education system, and I am honored to help celebrate its 150th anniversary.  I look forward to visiting many schools across our great country and continuing the discussion on how we can increase access to affordable, quality higher education."

On February 10, she visited Jefferson Middle School Academy.  "I thank D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson, Jefferson [Academy] Principal Greg Dohmann, Superintendent Natalie Gordon, and a tremendous team of administrators, teachers, and students for welcoming me to Jefferson [Academy] today," she said in a subsequent statement.

"Jefferson Academy is a public middle school on the rise and a great example of the successful collaborative innovations occurring within the D.C. Public Schools system.  Focusing on their students and families is at the heart of Jefferson's approach, and that's exactly what I believe is at the heart of providing an exceptional education.  Great teachers and leaders help make great schools, and I was honored to speak with Jefferson's team about our shared commitment to strengthening public education."

Then, last week, the Secretary joined President Trump for a parent-teacher conference listening session at the White House (video), as well as addressed both the Magnet Schools of America National Policy Training Conference (remarks) and the Community College National Legislative Summit (remarks).

Moreover, this week, she offered remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (remarks) and met with university presidents and chancellors of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (official readout).

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ESSA Update

In a letter to Chief State School Officers, the Secretary provided clarity on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation, in light of the actions related to the postponement of the accountability regulations and the Congressional Review Act.  The letter emphasizes that states should continue to move forward and that the Department will work to ensure that state education leaders have the flexibility that Congress intended.  States should continue to follow the timeline for developing and submitting plans for review and approval, building on the work they have already completed.

The Department will provide further guidance on the state plan requirements by March 13.

"States have been working diligently on ESSA plans," the Secretary stated, "and today's letter makes clear that the Department remains committed to faithfully implementing the law as Congress intended.  I remain committed to working alongside local education leaders to ensure they have the flexibility to craft educational plans that make the most sense for the parents and students they serve."

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Title IX Guidance

In a statement, the Secretary announced the Departments of Justice and Education were withdrawing statements of policy and guidance requiring access to sex-segregated facilities based on gender identity (new guidance).

"We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.  This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, [school] district, or state can abdicate.  At my direction, the Department's Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying, and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.

"The guidance issued by the previous administration has given rise to several legal questions.  As a result, a federal court in August 2016 issued a nationwide injunction barring the Department from enforcing a portion of its application.  Since that time, the Department has not enforced that part of the guidance, thus there is no immediate impact to students by rescinding this guidance.

"This is an issue best solved at the state and local level.  Schools, communities, and families can find—and, in many cases, have found—solutions that protect all students.

"I have dedicated my career to advocating for and fighting on behalf of students, and as Secretary of Education, I consider protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America.

"We owe all students a commitment to ensure they have access to a learning environment that is free of discrimination, bullying, and harassment."

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Odds and Ends

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Quote to Note

"The vast majority of students in this country will continue to attend public schools.  If confirmed, I will be a strong advocate for great public schools.  But, if a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child—perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet—we should support a parent's right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative.  It's really pretty simple.  Every child in America deserves to be in a safe environment that is free from discrimination.  Every student in America dreams of developing his or her unique talents and gifts.  Every parent in America dreams of a future when their children have access to schools with the rigor, challenges, and safe environments that successfully prepare them for a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow.  And every teacher in America dreams of breaking free from standardization, so that they can deploy their unique creativity and innovate with their students."

        Secretary Betsy DeVos (1/17/16), from her confirmation hearing statement

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Upcoming Events

On February 28, Secretary DeVos will deliver the keynote address at a day-long conference of Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) presidents and chancellors at the Library of Congress.

Also on February 28, President Trump will address a joint session of Congress.

The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) will open its student art exhibit at the Department with a color guard and musical performances by military-connected children next Friday, March 3 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time.  Retired Brigadier General and MCEC Vice Chairman Earl Simms will deliver remarks.  To RSVP to attend or learn more about the agency's year-round exhibit program, please contact Jacquelyn.Zimmermann@ed.gov or Frances.Hopkins@ed.gov.

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Last Modified: 02/24/2017