Press Room NEWSLETTERS
October 27, 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...
Disaster Relief Aid
On The Road Again
ESSA Update
Borrower Defense Rulemaking
Regulatory Reset
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Disaster Relief Aid

On October 26, President Trump signed into law the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act of 2017, providing $36.5 billion in disaster aid to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Interior for relief and recovery efforts in response to the recent hurricanes and wildfires. The legislation includes $18.67 billion for FEMA's disaster relief fund, $16 billion in debt forgiveness for the National Flood Insurance Program, $1.27 billion in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rican residents, and $576.5 million for wildfire suppression. This is the second emergency appropriations package passed by Congress; earlier, the President signed legislation providing $15.3 billion in disaster aid following Hurricane Harvey.

Also this week, Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Jason Botel traveled to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Spanning multiple islands, he visited community shelters and reopened schools and met with students, teachers, and territorial education leaders, including Puerto Rican Secretary of Education Julia Keleher and Virgin Islands Commissioner of Education Sharon McCollum. He also met with Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp.

In addition, in coordination with FEMA, First Lady Melania Trump issued a public service announcement (PSA) encouraging Americans to take action in support of disaster survivors following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The severity and impact of the storms in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have led to recovery efforts that will continue for months and years to come. It will require the combined efforts of federal, state, territorial, tribal, and local agencies, partnering with non-profit, faith-based, and private sector organizations, to rebuild stronger than before.

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On The Road Again

This month, Secretary DeVos traveled to the West Coast. First, on October 11, she visited McMinnville High School in Oregon to see first-hand the school district's innovative initiatives, particularly its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs and teacher development techniques. Next, on October 12, she was on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California, meeting with students in a graduate-level business class and touring the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, commonly known as "the d.school." That same day, she also visited Thomas Russell Middle School in Milpitas, California, to learn about the school's commitment to personalized learning. Then, on October 13, she delivered remarks at the Washington Policy Center's Annual Dinner in Seattle.

On October 19, the Secretary gave similar remarks at the Acton Institute Annual Dinner in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

And, on October 23, in recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month's "Week of Inclusion," the Secretary joined the First Lady's visit to Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield, Michigan. They spent time in a sixth-grade classroom focused on social-emotional learning, participating in lessons about inclusion, kindness, and respecting others. They also talked with seventh- and eighth-grade students in the school's cafeteria to bring awareness to "No One Eats Alone," a campaign to reverse the trends of social isolation by asking students to engage in simple acts of kindness—such as making sure no one is eating alone and students are making an effort to eat with new classmates and peers.

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ESSA Update

Secretary DeVos announced that all consolidated state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) submitted by 34 states and Puerto Rico at the fall deadline were found complete and ready for peer review. The plans 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. "The Department worked closely with each state to ensure their plans were ready for peer review," the Secretary said. "I commend the Chief State School Officers, governors, and stakeholders in these states for their efforts and for embracing ESSA's flexibility to craft plans that will help meet the unique needs of their students." Sixteen states and the District of Columbia submitted their plans at the spring deadline.

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Borrower Defense Rulemaking

Consistent with the Administrative Procedure Act, the Secretary issued an interim final rule delaying until July 1, 2018, the effective date of the Borrower Defense to Repayment (BDR) regulations published in the Federal Register on November 1, 2016. Back in June, the Department announced this delay due to pending litigation challenging the regulations. The interim rule provides some certainty to schools as that litigation proceeds.

Moreover, the Secretary proposed to further delay, until July 1, 2019, the effective date of BDR regulations to ensure adequate time to conduct negotiated rulemaking and, as necessary, develop revised regulations. The rulemaking process will get underway later this fall. The Department recently released the names of the 17 panelists and alternates who will be participating.

In the meantime, the agency will continue processing borrower claims under existing rules set in the 1990s.

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Regulatory Reset

In response to President Trump's Executive Order on regulatory reform agenda, which called for alleviating "unnecessary regulatory burdens," the Department's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) has been reviewing regulations and guidance in phases, including analyzing input submitted by the public. The first phase involved reviewing guidance published on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. At this time, OSERS has rescinded a total of 72 guidance documents. These documents have been superseded by changes in laws or regulations, succeeded by more recent guidance, or are no longer relevant because associated programs were previously cancelled. The rescissions will not affect the services provided to children, youth, or adults with disabilities.

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Odds and Ends

  • President Trump announced his intent to nominate Kenneth Marcus to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department. He is currently President and General Counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. He previously served as Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and was delegated the authority of Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights under President George W. Bush.

  • Following the President's Executive Order expanding apprenticeships in the country, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced members of the President's Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. (Note: Secretary DeVos, who is Vice Chair of the President's Task Force, issued a statement.)

  • Secretary DeVos announced eight principals from 2017 National Blue Ribbon Schools as this year's recipients of the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership.

  • The Secretary called to congratulate Chapin High School Principal Akil Ross of South Carolina as 2018 National Principal of the Year, named by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (Facebook video).

  • To mark Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia Awareness Month, the Secretary convened a roundtable of parents and advocates to engage in a dialogue on how the Department can best serve children with disabilities.

  • Recognizing Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a mother shares the deep love and pride she has for her son in "Things People Say."

  • The Department released a Pay for Success toolkit, intended to serve as an introductory guide for state and local governments and other stakeholders that are interested in exploring the possibility of this innovative financing strategy for education or related societal issues (Pay for Success web page).

  • Last week, the Department announced the winner in the EdSim Challenge, a competition to design a next-generation simulation to strengthen career and technical education. The winner: Osso VR—a surgical training platform enabling users to practice cutting-edge techniques through realistic, hands-on simulations, bridging the gap between career exploration and career preparation. It will receive $430,000 in cash and in-kind prizes from IBM and Microsoft.

  • The Department's Privacy Technical Assistance Center warned schools of a new cyber threat, where criminals are seeking to extort money from districts and other educational institutions on the threat of releasing sensitive data from student records. In some cases, there have been threats of violence, shaming, or bullying children unless payment is received. These attacks are being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and, so far, none of the threats of violence has been judged to be credible.

  • The National Endowment for the Arts' (NEA) The Big Read provides Americans the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities. Governments, libraries, school districts, colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations are encouraged to apply for one of an estimated 75 grants that will be awarded for programming occurring between September 2018 and June 2019. The application deadline is January 28, 2018.

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Quote to Note

"I'm not for or against one type or one brand of school choice. I'm not for any type of school over another. Sycophants of the 'system' would have you believe choice means vouchers [and charter schools], right? They say it means private schools, or maybe even religious schools. It means for-profit schools. They say it means taking money away from [traditional] public schools—no accountability, no standards, the wild west, the market run amuck.... Yet nothing could be further from the truth! You see, choice is not just another wonky policy debate or a pedagogical theory or a statute written by politicians to be parsed out by lawyers. The real meaning of choice is that it is every parent's right to determine how to engage their children in their own life-long learning journey. States are different, families are dynamic, and children are unique.... That's why I wholeheartedly believe real choice cannot be accomplished through a one-size-fits-all federal government mandate!... But D.C. does have an important supporting role to play in the future of choice. We can amplify the voices of those who only want better for their kids. We can assist states that are working to further empower parents, and we can urge those that haven't to start [doing so]."

        Secretary Betsy DeVos (10/13/17), in remarks at the Washington Policy Center Annual Dinner

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Upcoming Events

Schools are encouraged to invite U.S. military veterans into their classrooms around Veterans Day (November 11). Veterans can share their experiences and teach students lessons about the history and significance of the federal holiday, helping students reflect upon the importance of the ideals of liberty, freedom, and democracy.

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Last Modified: 10/27/2017