Press Room NEWSLETTERS
April 5, 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...
Consensus: Higher Education Reforms
Education Freedom Scholarships
Congressional Testimony
Funding Opportunities
College Admissions Investigations
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

Consensus: Higher Education Reforms

Secretary DeVos welcomed news this week that the committee debating the Department's proposed higher education reforms reached consensus on the language for draft regulations. This comprehensive agreement by negotiators paves the way for overdue modernizations of accreditation and distance learning.

The package of rules is aimed at rethinking higher education to improve outcomes and accountability for students, institutions, and taxpayers. These rules, which will next be published for public comment, come after months of negotiations that engaged a wide variety of higher education stakeholders, including students, employers, veterans, financial aid administrators, student legal aid organizations, and minority-serving, faith-based, online, two-year and four-year, public, non-profit, and proprietary colleges and universities.

"Today's historic action proves just how much can be accomplished on behalf of students when we put their needs above all else," the Secretary asserted. "Rethinking higher education required each person at the negotiating table to challenge assumptions and examine past practice in order to better serve students. I commend them for doing just that."

The final language approved by the committee and reports from the three subcommittees will be available on the negotiated rulemaking web page in the coming days.

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Education Freedom Scholarships

Also this week, the Secretary traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, and was joined by Governor Bill Lee for a meeting at the State Capitol about Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS). More than 30 families, educators, stakeholders, and elected officials convened for a roundtable discussion on the policy proposal. The participants shared stories from their communities and gave examples of how EFS could benefit them, as well as underscored the challenges the current system has placed on families (photos).

During the meeting, the Secretary praised Tennessee's ongoing efforts to expand education options for families and encouraged stakeholders to continue rethinking education in their communities. "I'm pleased to see education leaders in Tennessee willing to act boldly on behalf of their students," she explained. "Governor Lee is passionate about improving educational outcomes and is working hard to introduce creative changes to the current system. Expanding access to Education Savings Accounts and innovative charter schools would truly empower more parents to create the custom education experience best suited for their child.... During our roundtable, we also received a lot of positive feedback on our [EFS] proposal which would truly complement the in-demand, state-based reforms taking shape here.... I look forward to seeing how [the EFS] proposal—coupled with the important reforms taking shape in Tennessee—will give each child access to an education that is personalized for them, unleashes their creativity, and unlocks their potential."

Governor Lee expressed gratitude for the Secretary's visit, saying "Working to provide our kids the best possible education is something we all must strive for, and, in Tennessee, we are doing everything we can to provide high-quality options for every student. I thank Secretary DeVos for coming to Tennessee today to help champion reforms and put a focus on students at the national level."

After the meeting, the Secretary and Governor visited LEAD Cameron Middle School, a charter school with a successful turnaround story (photos).

For a video recap of the state visit, visit here.

Separately, the Secretary discussed EFS and the importance of empowering parents, teachers, and states at the National Review Institute's 2019 Ideas Summit (photos and media report).

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Congressional Testimony

Last week, the Secretary testified before the House and Senate education appropriations subcommittees on President Trump's Fiscal Year 2020 budget request for the Department of Education.

"I thought it would be useful to begin by recalling Congress's commitment when it created the Department 40 years ago," she said in her prepared remarks to the House subcommittee. "Then, Congress vowed that the move would 'not increase the authority of the Federal government over education or diminish the responsibility for education with is reserved to the States,' and, I'll add, communities and parents. This budget reflects a commitment to that sentiment. It also recognizes who actually funds the government's budget: taxpayers. And so, we propose Congress spend their money wisely, efficiently, and with restraint.... I acknowledge that it's easier to keep spending, to keep saying 'yes,' and to keep saddling tomorrow's generations with today's growing debt. But, as it's been said, the government will 'run out of other people's money.' Over the past 40 years, federal taxpayer spending on education has increased about 180%, amounting to over $1.2 trillion cumulatively. Yet, we're still 24th in reading, 25th in science, 40th in math when compared to the rest of the world. Doing the same thing—and more of it—won't bring about new results."

The Secretary affirmed the Department's unwavering commitment to supporting students with disabilities, stating "We are focused every day on raising expectations and improving outcomes for infants and toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and are committed to confronting and addressing anything that stands in the way of their success." The budget requests $13.2 billion for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding, the same funding level appropriated by Congress, including $12.4 billion for grants to states, $391 million for preschool grants, and $470 million for grants for infants and families. The budget also requests an additional $225.6 million for competitive grants to support teacher preparation, research, and technical assistance to support students with disabilities.

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Funding Opportunities

The Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) has issued or is anticipating issuing Notices Inviting Applications (NIAs) for a number of grant competitions.

  • Teacher Quality Partnership Program. The Department plans to award some $38 million to partnerships to support high-quality teacher preparation and professional development for prospective teachers. Eligible partnerships must contain, at a minimum, all of the following components: a high-need school district or consortium of districts; a high-need school or consortium of schools or a high-need early childhood education program; a higher education institution; a college, school, department, or program of education within the partner institution; and a college, school, or department of arts and sciences within the partner institution. The NIA is posted here, with notice of intent to apply requested by May 3 and applications due by May 20.
  • Comprehensive Literacy State Development Grants Program. This program supports advanced literacy skills through the use of evidence-based practices, activities, and interventions, including pre-literacy skills, reading, and writing, for children from birth through twelfth-grade, with an emphasis on disadvantaged children, including children living in poverty, English learners, and children with disabilities. Eligible applicants are state education agencies.
  • Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program. This program supports evidence-based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and other activities designed to build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to identify gifted and talented students and meet their special needs. Eligible applicants include state education agencies, local education agencies, higher education institutions, other public agencies, and private organizations.
  • Charter Schools Program Developer Grants. These grants are intended to support the opening of new charter schools and the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools.
  • Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program. This program supports entities that use innovative methods to help charter schools address the cost of acquiring, constructing, and renovating facilities by enhancing the availability of loans and bond financing.
  • State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants. These grants are intended to help states establish and enhance or administer per-student facilities aid for charter schools.

OESE is also calling for peer reviewers for the following open competitions: Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program and Full-Service Community Schools Program.

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College Admissions Investigations

The Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has opened preliminary investigations into eight universities tied to the college admissions and bribery scandal unveiled by federal prosecutors last month. According to the letter sent to university presidents, investigators are examining whether any of the universities violated any laws or rules "governing the Federal student financial aid programs" or "any other applicable laws." Schools found to have committed "substantial misrepresentation" can have their access to federal student aid limited or revoked.

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Odds and Ends

  • On April 1, the White House hosted the 2019 Prison Reform Summit. Several beneficiaries of the First Step Act, which granted early release to qualifying federal prisoners, spoke at this event. In his remarks, President Trump addressed criminal justice reform, creating successful re-entry programs (including Second Chance Pell), drug rehabilitation programs, and removing obstacles that hinder employment (video and fact sheet).

  • As part of her "Be Best" initiative, First Lady Melania Trump visited West Gate Elementary School in Palm Beach County, Florida, on March 28. West Gate dedicates itself to removing bullying from the academic environment by blocking out time for bi-weekly meetings between students and teachers in an effort to develop emotional skills. Furthermore, the lower grades participate in daily social and emotional learning meetings, while the upper grades come together a couple of times a week.

  • OESE released draft state and local report cards guidance, clarifying the reporting requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and providing information states and districts may consider in developing and disseminating report cards. (Note: This document is posted for feedback through April 29.)

  • The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recently released a school resource guide for staff to help educate and protect students from substance abuse.

  • There are now Act Early Ambassadors in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and three territories who work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) "Learn the Signs. Act Early." campaign to improve early identification of developmental delays and disabilities—including autism.

  • A new National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Data Point looks at the relationship between educational attainment and various rates of labor under-utilization.

  • The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) proposed a set of priorities to guide its work and is seeking public comment on or before May 28.

  • The Department named John Olson, a science specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education, as the recipient of the 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director's Award.

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Quote to Note

"Everyone at the negotiating table—students, employers, veterans, accreditors, financial aid administrators, student legal aid organizations, and minority-serving, faith-based, online, two-year and four-year, public, non-profit, and proprietary colleges and universities—overcame the naysayers to achieve consensus. I want to thank all of the negotiators and our entire [agency] team for their hard work and congratulate them on a job well done."

        Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (4/3/19), applauding negotiators' consensus on language for draft higher education reform regulations

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Upcoming Events

Among other observations, April is Month of the Military Child, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, National Financial Capability Month, National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and Second Chance Month. Also, the next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Saturday, April 27.

On April 10, at 9 a.m. Eastern Time, the Secretary is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Education and Labor on the Department's policies and priorities.

The Department's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) is hosting a Multiliteracy Symposium on May 6 in Washington, D.C. This event will feature leaders in research, policy, and practice sharing their perspectives on why developing language and literacy skills in English plus other languages is critical in today's learning environment. Symposium tickets are free and available for in-person attendance or online viewing.

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Last Modified: 04/05/2019