Press Room NEWSLETTERS
March 8, 2019

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 Freedom Scholarships
Governors' Winter Meeting
Rethinking CTE
FSA Chief Operating Officer
Be Best Initiative
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Education Freedom Scholarships

Last week, Secretary DeVos, joined by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne, unveiled the Trump Administration's key proposal to expand and improve the educational options available to students across the country: Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS). EFS would make a historic investment in students, injecting up to $5 billion annually into locally controlled scholarship programs that empower families to choose the learning environment and style that best meets their students' unique needs. EFS would not rely on any funds currently allocated to public education, nor would it create a new federal education program. Participation would be voluntary for students, schools, and states.

"I believe every student in the country deserves the opportunity to pursue the education that best meets his or her needs," the Secretary said. "No student should feel stuck in a school that just isn't working for them or feel hopeless because they live on the wrong side of town. EFS will finally give students the opportunity to learn in places and grow in ways that have too often been denied to them. This historic investment in students honors the fact that each one of them is unique and deserves an education that's personalized for them, unleashes their creativity, and unlocks their potential."

EFS would be funded through taxpayers' voluntary contributions to state-identified Scholarship Granting Organizations. Those taxpayers would then receive a non-refundable, dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit. Again, EFS would not create a new federal program. Instead, states would decide whether to participate, as well as how to select eligible students, educational providers, and allowable educational expenses.

Some of the ways states could potentially expand students' access to educational opportunities include:

  • advanced, remedial, and elective courses;
  • apprenticeships and industry certifications;
  • concurrent and dual enrollment;
  • private education and home schooling;
  • special education services and therapies;
  • transportation to educational providers outside of a family's zoned school;
  • tutoring, especially for students in low-performing schools; and
  • after-school and summer learning.

For more information, visit the new EFS web site, which features the press conference video and Secretary's remarks, press release, several fact sheets (EFS fast facts and how EFS can expand public education options, career training options, and special education options), a blog post on "6 Things to Know about EFS," and an op-ed on EFS by the Secretary, Senator, and Representative published in USA Today.

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Governors' Winter Meeting

Also last week, 48 governors converged on Washington, D.C., for the National Governors Association's (NGA) Winter Meeting, which included time over two days at the White House with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Cabinet secretaries. Specifically, on February 25, the governors attended a session on workforce development, discussing ways the federal government can partner with states and continue the economy's job growth. Several governors also attended a session on improving school safety.

"We want every citizen to gain the cutting-edge skills they need to enjoy a rewarding, life-long career," the President emphasized in his opening remarks. "[B]ecause of our roaring economy, there are more opportunities than ever before to get sidelined workers—and these are people that lost jobs and have never gotten them back, but now they're coming back and very, very rapidly—back into the labor force. Last year, my administration created the Council for [the] American Worker and launched the Pledge [to] America's Workers, where we've gained commitments from private sector leaders to hire and train more than 6.5 million Americans.... I was also proud to sign a modernized [Carl D.] Perkins [Career] and Technical Education Act into law."

Secretary DeVos was a part of both the workforce development and school safety sessions, and she joined Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta for a conversation on addressing the opioid crisis through improved data gathering and prevention.

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Rethinking CTE

Secretary DeVos joined the Association for Career and Technical Education's (ACTE) annual Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month site visit on February 26 to the Academies of Loudoun in Leesburg, Virginia. The visit began with a brief overview of the school by Principal Tinell Priddy. It was followed by a roundtable discussion with students, teachers, and association partners and a tour of three classrooms: the Radiology Technology Lab, the Makerspace, and the Research Greenhouse.

In outlining the school's four-pillared mission to help students explore, research, collaborate, and innovate, Priddy noted that the Academies is the largest school ever built by the county, retains a placement coordinator to help students find internships and careers, and focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) (see media coverage of the visit in LoudounNow, the Loudoun Times-Mirror, and The 74).

Meanwhile, on the Department's Homeroom blog, a prep chef outlines in "2 Years Was the Path for Me in CTE" how his high school's family and consumer sciences program helped him discover his passion for the culinary arts, which he was able to turn into a successful career.

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FSA Chief Operating Officer

This week, the Secretary announced Mark Brown as Chief Operating Officer of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Brown is a retired major general in the U.S. Air Force, with over 32 years of service to the nation. Most recently, he served as the deputy commander for the Air Education and Training Command, where he was responsible for Air Force education, as well as basic and technical training. During his time as Chief Financial Officer of the Air Force Material Command, he was charged with overseeing a $67 billion portfolio, with budget and financial planning responsibilities that provided vital services to support command units around the world. He also served as the congressional liaison to the House and Senate Appropriations Military Subcommittees.

Brown replaces FSA Acting Chief Operating Officer James Manning, who came out of retirement to lead the Administration's transition efforts at the Department.

Dr. Wayne Johnson will remain FSA's Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer, continuing his work on the Next Generation financial services environment, which aims to modernize the technology and operational components that support FSA programs from application through repayment. In fact, the Department recently finalized a major contract to overhaul how the government collects and manages the payments of student loan borrowers. The contract is to build a single digital platform for all interactions with borrowers.

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Be Best Initiative

Also this week, First Lady Melania Trump participated in a three-state tour to promote the three pillars of her Be Best initiative, which includes the well-being of children, online safety, and opioid abuse.

On March 4, she traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to visit the Dove School of Discovery Elementary School, recipient of the 2018 National School of Character Award. This school's curriculum incorporates character development in every class. Also, the school works to integrate parents into the curriculum with "Parent Academy" workshops, which give parents a better understanding of what their children are learning on a day-to-day basis. The First Lady toured three different classrooms and joined activities encouraging children to think about ways they can show kindness in their lives (readout).

That same day, she also traveled to Redmond, Washington, for a visit to Microsoft Corporation headquarters. Microsoft demonstrated, through a showcase and a key leaders discussion, that it is working to address challenges in line with the Be Best initiative, including providing parents and families with the latest tools and information to protect children online and spread awareness about the importance of teaching children digital activity (readout).

On March 5, she traveled to Las Vegas to give remarks and participate in an opioids town hall (readout).

"Whether it is social media and technology or drug and alcohol abuse, children in our country and around the world are faced with many challenges," the First Lady stated. "Through Be Best, I will continue to shine a spotlight on the well-being programs that provide children the tools and skills required for emotional, social, and physical well-being and promote successful organizations, programs, and people who are helping children overcome some of the issues they face while growing up in the modern world."

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Odds and Ends

  • In celebration of Read Across America Day (March 2), President Trump issued a statement, the Department shared photos of agency staff reading to their children, and a Homeroom blog post details "5 Tips to Encourage Reading at Home."

  • On February 27, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved the nomination of Robert King to be the Department's Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, sending it to the full Senate.

  • The Department is inviting applications for new awards under the Full-Service Community Schools Program.

  • A National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report, "Projections of Education Statistics for 2027," has data on student enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures for schools and degree-granting institutions.

  • The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), appointed Lesley Muldoon as its new executive director.

  • The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the American Theatre Wing are looking for emerging songwriting stars under the Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge. This national competition is open to high school students who have a passion for writing songs that could be part of a musical theater production (encompassing a range of styles, including hip-hop, rock, R&B, country, jazz, and more). Applications will be accepted through April 30.

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Quote to Note

"The key element of the [Education Freedom Scholarships] proposal is freedom. Freedom for everyone involved. Students, families, teachers, schools, states can choose to participate in the program. Or, they can elect not to participate. That's what freedom is all about. Let me be clear: I firmly believe every state should embrace education freedom. But those are decisions families and communities must make. This is not another mandate. We know gaining this freedom will require more work in some states than others. But, as more states offer more options to families, demand will rise and pressure will mount on those who have not yet embraced the opportunity. Ultimately, Education Freedom Scholarships require only one thing: students and parents must be empowered to make choices and decisions."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (2/28/19), in prepared remarks at the press conference unveiling the Education Freedom Scholarships proposal

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Upcoming Events

Among other observations, March is Women's History Month.

On March 11, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the Department will brief stakeholders on President Trump's Fiscal Year 2020 budget request. Stakeholders are welcome to join in person (in the Potomac Center Plaza auditorium, 550 12th Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20024) or watch online. That same day, budget materials will be posted here.

In accordance with the Department's commitment to engage in regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with American Indian Tribes, the agency's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education (WHIAIANE) will conduct a Tribal consultation regarding the Native American Language Program (NAL@ED) on April 4 in Acme, Michigan. OESE will consult with elected officials of federally recognized Tribes to ensure that their views inform policy decisions related to the priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria that will govern future competitions under the current statutory authority. To register for the in-person or virtual event, please visit here.

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Last Modified: 03/12/2019