Press Room NEWSLETTERS
May 19, 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...
Education Appropriations
ESSA Update
Commencement Address
Honoring Teachers
Computer Simulations
Odds and Ends
Quotes to Note
Upcoming Events

Education Appropriations

On May 5, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, providing funding for most federal agencies for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017. The act increases the Department of Education's discretionary funding by $182 million from FY 2016. Among the highlights: increases for Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I grants to school districts (up $550 million, with $450 million from the former School Improvement Grant program, to $15.5 billion) and special education grants to states (up $90 million, to $12 billion); cuts to ESEA Title II professional development grants (down $200 million, to $2.1 billion) and Education Innovation and Research grants (down $20 million, to $100 million); and first-time funding for ESEA Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants (at $400 million). Also, the act restores year-round Pell Grants and, because of mandatory funding, boosts the maximum Pell Grant award by $105 to $5,920 for the 2017-18 academic year.

The President's FY 2018 budget request is scheduled to be released on May 23. The Department of Education's budget materials will be posted here.

On May 24, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department's Office of Safe and Healthy Students will host a webinar on changes to the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017. For example, given the appropriations level, states have the option of making competitive subgrants to eligible districts (versus distributing the funds by formula).

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ESSA Update

Last week, Secretary DeVos announced that all Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plans submitted for the spring deadline were found to be complete and ready for peer review. The plans from 16 states—Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont—and the District of Columbia now proceed to the staff and peer review process, through which experts and stakeholders will examine them to ensure they comply with ESSA's statutory provisions. "Today's announcement is a big win for ESSA implementation," the Secretary said. "I am committed to returning decision-making power back to states and setting the Department up to serve the support and monitoring roles intended by Congress. The Department worked with states to ensure their plans included all statutorily required components laid out in the Department's revised template. I commend officials from these states for their efforts to ensure their plans were ready for the peer review process and for their continued work to improve education for all students."

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Commencement Address

Also last week, Secretary DeVos delivered her first commencement address in office to the Bethune-Cookman University Class of 2017. In her remarks, she reaffirmed the Administration's support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and for year-round Pell Grants to help students reach their academic goals. She also called on the graduates to meet the challenges of the world head-on, through service, courage, and grace, invoking the strong legacy of university founder and civil rights icon Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Following are some excerpts from her remarks.

"The degree conferred on you today is the culmination of time, energy, and effort invested and knowledge, experience, and skills gained. However, the sum of your education here involved far more than sleepless nights spent cramming for a big exam, hours invested putting the finishing touches on papers, and time devoted to clubs, organizations, and causes. The whole of your time [at B-CU]—your experiences, your relationships, and your hard work—has laid a foundation for you to appreciate your responsibilities to your peers, your community, your country, and the world."

"[T]hink about the impact of Dr. Bethune's selfless, singular focus [on providing African-American children access to a quality education]. Then consider the influence that you, as a graduate, could have on the lives of others—both now and into the future. All that is required for world-shaking change is your conscious and courageous decision to serve. Your path here was shaped by others—educators, parents, family members, neighbors, and friends.... Through serving others, you can extend that legacy."

"[M]y final challenge to you: approach the unanticipated, the unexpected, the unforeseen with grace.... The natural instinct is to join in the chorus of conflict, to make your voice louder, your point bigger, and your position stronger. But we will not solve the significant and real problems our country faces if we cannot bring ourselves to embrace a mindset of grace. We must first listen, then speak, with humility, to genuinely hear the perspectives of those with whom we don't immediately or instinctively agree."

Shortly after her address, the Secretary issued a statement, expressing her appreciation for the opportunity to speak and honor graduates. "One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree," she emphasized. "I have respect for all those who attended, including those who demonstrated their disagreement with me. While we may share differing points of view, my visit and dialogue with students leaves me encouraged and committed to supporting HBCUs."

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Honoring Teachers

During Teacher Appreciation Week (May 8-12), Department staff called more than 2,600 teachers across the country. Teachers were nominated by colleagues, other educators, and state and local elected officials for making a positive difference in their schools every day. (Watch this video of Secretary DeVos calling teachers.) The agency also hosted a panel discussion about Asian American/Pacific Islander teachers and encouraged everyone to use #ThankaTeacher to share their celebrations, recognize a past teacher, and give a shout out to peers.

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Computer Simulations

The Department recently announced finalists in the EdSim Challenge, a competition to design the next generation of computer simulations that strengthen career and technical education. The challenge called upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of today. Five finalists were selected out of 249 submissions.

Each finalist will receive $50,000 and enter the EdSim Virtual Accelerator to refine its submission and develop a prototype. The finalists will also receive in-kind prizes that include donated development kits.

The Virtual Accelerator phase will culminate in Demo Day, where finalists will present their playable prototypes to a panel of judges. The judges will recommend the grand prize winner to receive the remaining $430,000 of the $680,000 cash prize pool and additional in-kind prizes.

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Odds and Ends

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Quotes to Note

"During Public Service Recognition Week, we express gratitude for civil servants. Their daily effort keeps our government functioning and helps make our nation exceptional. Throughout my first 100 days, I have seen the tremendous work civil servants do to fulfill our duty to the American people. At all levels of government, our public servants put our country and our people first. The hard work of our teachers, mail carriers, firefighters, transit workers, and many more creates an environment that allows individuals and companies to thrive."

        President Donald Trump (5/5/17), from a proclamation recognizing Public Service Recognition Week

"By helping educationally disadvantaged adults learn to read, we're making an investment that will pay exponential dividends for them personally and for the country as a whole. When we have an educated and skilled workforce, we're able to increase upward mobility, drive economic growth, and maintain our nation's global competitiveness."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (5/4/17), in remarks at the National Celebration of Reading

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Upcoming Events

On Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, at 3:00 p.m. local time, Americans are asked to stop what they are doing and spend one minute in a Moment of Remembrance. The mid-afternoon time was chosen because it is when a majority of Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the holiday.

The 2017 Federal Student Aid (FSA) Conference in Orlando (November 28-December 1) will provide the most up-to-date information on Higher Education Act (HEA) Title IV programs and federal policies and procedures affecting customers and partners. This event is the largest federal conference offered for the financial aid community.

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

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Last Modified: 08/01/2017