Disaster Relief Aid
Be Best Initiative
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Disaster Relief Aid
Late last month, Secretary DeVos announced some $693 million in new federal disaster assistance under the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations program. These awards provide initial funding to eligible state educational agencies (SEAs) to help meet the needs of local educational agencies (LEAs), charter schools, and private schools in defraying expenses related to restarting school operations and restoring the normal learning environment for students and families impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the 2017 California wildfires. Awards were made to the first three SEAs that applied for assistance in the following amounts: California Department of Education$14.4 million; Texas Education Agency$89.4 million; and Puerto Rico Department of Education$589.2 million.
Congress appropriated a combined amount of $2.5 billion for both the Restart and the Temporary Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students programs. The amounts awarded under each program will be based on demand and specific data received from eligible applicants, with multiple opportunities to apply. The Department released the applications for the Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students and Homeless Children and Youth programs on April 23.
Earlier this month, in separate Federal Register notices, the Department announced the availability of funding under the higher education disaster relief programs authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018: the Emergency Assistance to Institutions of Higher Education Program and the Defraying Costs of Enrolling Displaced Students Program.
The agency has shared further information, including application packages, on its Disaster Relief web page.
Meanwhile, President Trump declared this week as National Hurricane Preparedness Week, asserting "Being prepared is the key to minimizing hurricane-related harm."
On May 8, the Secretary announced the 2018 class of U.S. Presidential Scholars. This program was established by Executive Order in 1964 to honor academic achievement by graduating high school seniors. It was expanded in 1979 to honor students in the arts and in 2015 to honor students in career and technical education (CTE). Each year, up to 161 students are named, including at least one young man and woman from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American families living abroad. Another 15 students are chosen at-large, 20 students are scholars in the arts, and 20 students are scholars in CTE. More than 5,200 candidates qualified on the basis of outstanding ACT or SAT scores or through nominations by Chief State School Officers, partner organizations, or the National YoungArts Foundation's nationwide YoungArts competition. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholarsappointed by the Presidentselects the finalists based on their academic success, school evaluations, transcripts, and essays, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Scholars will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 24.
President Trump, Secretary DeVos, and Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta honored the 2018 National and State Teachers of the Year on May 2 at the White House. In his remarks, the President thanked teachers for dedicating "your lives to our nation's single most importance resource: our children." He specifically extolled National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning, who teaches English to newly arrived immigrants and refugees at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington. "Teachers like Mandy play a vital role in the well-being of our children, the strength of our communities, and the success of our nation," he said. "The job of a teacher is not only to instruct the next generation of workers but the next generation of citizens, to teach our children to care for others, to think for themselves, to love their country, to be proud of our history, and to be the true pillars of their families and their communities" (video).
Earlier that week, Secretary DeVos hosted the teachers at the Department, discussing school safety, addressing the opioid crisis, and rethinking education to meet the unique needs of individual students (photos).
This week, recognizing Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7-11), Department staff called teachers across the country. Teachers were nominated by colleagues, other educators, and community leaders for making a positive difference in their schools every day. The agency also encouraged everyone to use #ThankaTeacher to share their celebrations, recognize a past teacher, and give a shout out to peers. (Note: Watch this video of the Secretary recalling outstanding teachers from her travels and delivering a message of thanks for teachers' public service.)
The Secretary recently announced the approval of several consolidated state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). South Carolina and Virginia (press release) and Alabama, Colorado, and Kentucky (press release) were among the states to request more time to finalize their plans. "The state plans meet the requirements of ESSA, and I am pleased to approve them," she stated. "As implementation begins, I look forward to seeing how local leaders are able to use the flexibility afforded by ESSA to innovate on behalf of their students."
To date, the Secretary has approved plans for 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. All remaining states have received feedback and are working on revisions.
In other news, a new agency study examines how Title I schools are using flexibility offered by the school-wide program option that allows them to implement whole-school approaches to improving academic outcomes in high-poverty schools, particularly for low-achieving students (results in brief and full study). Also, a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) pilot collection offers an initial indication that many state-level datasets may support more detailed finance data reporting at the school level.
Be Best Initiative
On May 7, First Lady Melania Trump announced "Be Best," an awareness campaign focusing on some of the major issues facing children today. The goal is to encourage children to be best in their individual paths in life and teach them about the importance of social, emotional, and physical health. Be Best will include three main pillars: Well-Being, Social Media Use, and Opioid Abuse. "As part of Be Best, I plan to highlight ideas and programs such as Buddy Bench and the Viking Huddle class, with the hope that other schools or community groups will be inspired to [replicate] their efforts and take steps to improve the well-being of our children," the First Lady said. The White House is also promoting previously released guidance from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on young people's social media use (fact sheet, First Lady's remarks, and President's remarks).
Odds and Ends
Last week, on the National Day of Prayer, President Trump signed an Executive Order creating the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative within the Executive Office of the President, to be led by a newly created position of Advisor. In addition to working with the Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiative across executive agencies (learn more about the Department's center here), the Advisor will also be supported by experts and various faith-based and community leaders from outside the federal government (fact sheet and President's remarks).
This week, the Secretary expressed support for Mitchell Zais, nominated to be Deputy Secretary of Education, and shared a video profile.
Also this week, the Secretary participated in the final public meeting of the President's Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion (see final report to the President).
Today (at 5 p.m. Eastern Time) is the deadline for public comments on the Statewide Family Engagement Centers program and competition design.
The Homeroom blog offers a read out of the "Financial Education in America's Schools" convening, as well as the last in a series of posts for National Financial Capability Month: "Bank Accounts, Student Loans, Credit Cards, Oh My!"
For Public Service Recognition Week (May 6-12), Secretary DeVos joined other Cabinet officials in showing "appreciation to the millions of government employees and military personnel who have dedicated themselves and their careers to helping others" (resolution). She also led a "Walk and Roll Appreciation Stroll" on the National Mall for agency staff, aligned with National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.
Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Jason Botel was recently named vice chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).
Scholastic announced the 2018 Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, a free, online summer reading program. This year's challenge theme, "A Magical Summer of Reading," encourages students to mark the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" while tracking their summer reading minutes.
Quote to Note
"So, I encourage you to embrace the mess. Know that your life won't always unfold according to plan. Anticipate being called to something different, to something unexpected. Be not afraid! Don't avoid a change of course, an alternate path. Don't fear the unknown; step out with faith onto those stormy waters! You're blessed to live in the most successful and most free country in the history of human civilization. But there are those who are vulnerable, those who are forgotten around us. 'Find your own Calcutta,' Mother Teresa begged us. 'Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely right there where you arein your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools.' So, here's a question for each and every one of you: Where is your Calcutta? What will you do to put your newly gained skills to work in the service of others?"
|||Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (5/5/18), from her Ave Maria University commencement address|
Among other key observances, May is designated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (blog post on Department-led events), National Foster Care Month, and National Mental Health Awareness Month.
This month's free Federal Student Aid (FSA) webinars for students and families are titled "Graduation: What Happens Next" (May 30, 5-6 p.m. ET) and "Tips on Financially Preparing for College" (May 15, 4-4:30 p.m. ET).
The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education invites interested parties to an onsite tribal consultation on the Alaska Native Education Program in Kansas City, Missouri (June 3, 1-5 p.m. Central Time).
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