(Happy New Year!)
FSA Information Hub
Disaster Recovery Grants
Digest of Education Statistics
Year in Review
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
On December 20, President Trump signed into law the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, providing funding for the Department of Education for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020. The bill increases the agency’s discretionary funding to $72.8 billion, up $1.3 billion from FY 2019. Among the programs receiving big increases: Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I grants to school districts (up $450 million, to $16.3 billion); Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B grants to states (up $400 million, to $12.8 billion); ESEA Title II-A Supporting Effective Instruction grants (up $76 million, to $2.1 billion); ESEA Title III English Language Acquisition grants (up $50 million, to $787 million); ESEA Title IV-A Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants (up $40 million, to $1.2 billion); ESEA Title IV-B 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants (up $28 million, to $1.2 billion); and federal TRIO programs (up $30 million, to $1.1 billion).
The bill also boosts the maximum federal Pell Grant award per student by $150 to $6,345 for the 2020-21 academic year, as well as increases funding for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants (up $25 million, to $865 million) and Federal Work-Study grants (up $50 million, to $1.2 billion).
Further, the bill increases funding for key education-related programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including Head Start (up $550 million, to $10.6 billion), the Child Care and Development Block Grant (up $550 million, to $5.8 billion), and Preschool Development Grants (up $25 million, to $275 million).
Separately, the President signed into law two other education bills. The Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act makes permanent $255 million in annual funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), enables disclosure of tax return information for the administration of federal student aid programs, and increases Pell Grant funding (President’s statement, Secretary DeVos’s statement and Twitter thread, and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s video). The Building Blocks of STEM Act modifies several National Science Foundation (NSF) programs that provide grants to institutions of higher education and non-profit organizations to support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education research focused on early childhood.
FSA Information Hub
On December 22, delivering on the Secretary’s promise to improve customers’ experience with the federal student aid process, the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) debuted a centralized hub for borrowers to access student aid information. The revamped StudentAid.gov is the singular place where students and parents can learn about available types of student aid, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), complete loan counseling, and identify the right repayment plan. The site consolidates the student-facing portions of StudentLoans.gov, FSAID.ed.gov, and NSLDS.ed.gov (blog post).
Borrowers can now also access all loan servicer contract centers using one number: 1-800-4-FED-AID. This number features an interactive voice response function to direct customers to the appropriate place, reducing confusion and frustration. The myStudentAid mobile application has also been updated and enhanced, so that users can seamlessly switch between completing tasks on the app and the web.
Moreover, 10% of federal student aid borrowers now have access to Aidan, FSA’s new digital assistant. Aidan can already answer more than 800 questions about federal student aid and is learning more from feedback submitted by users during this pilot year. It will become available to additional customers on a rolling basis.
Disaster Recovery Grants
Secretary DeVos announced in mid-December federal assistance for students and schools in 13 states and the Northern Mariana Islands impacted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael, Typhoon Mangkhut, Super Typhoon Yutu, and other natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. The $155 million in grant funds will be used to aid a wide range of education-related disaster recovery efforts. Funds can be used for mental health and safety programs for students and staff, replacing instructional materials lost during storms, additional transportation costs for students, paying staff salaries, and removing debris and mitigating mold from schools.
The new funding supports three grant programs administered by the Department’s Disaster Recovery Unit (DRU) in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE). Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations grants are awarded to states to provide assistance or services related to the restart of operations in, the reopening of, and/or the re-enrollment of students in public and non-public elementary and secondary schools that serve an area affected by a covered disaster or emergency. Temporary Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students grants are awarded to states to disperse to help districts pay the costs of providing education to students displaced by disaster. Emergency Assistance to Institutions of Higher Education grants are awarded to institutions to mitigate the effects of a covered disaster or emergency, including reconstruction/renovation of damaged facilities. Grant amounts are based on the impact data and actual or estimated recovery costs supplied by applicants, as well as the number of applicants.
The agency has also posted relevant information on its Disaster Relief web page.
Digest of Education Statistics
The “Digest of Education Statistics 2018,” from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), is the 54th in a series of publications initiated in 1962. Its primary purpose is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education -- from pre-kindergarten through graduate school -- drawn from government and private sources, but especially from surveys and other activities led by NCES. The digest has data on the number of schools, students, and teachers in the U.S., as well as statistics on educational attainment, finances, libraries, technology, and international comparisons.
Year in Review
The White House issued a comprehensive fact sheet on the Trump Administration’s “record-breaking results for the American people in his first three years in office.”
Secretary DeVos looked back on 2019 in a video.
In “Top Hits of 2019,” NCES takes stock of its most downloaded reports, most viewed indicators, Fast Facts, and blog posts, and most engaging tweets over the past year.
Odds and Ends
- Yesterday (January 9), the seventh-annual ED Games Expo took over the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Students, educators, and members of the public tried out more than 140 new learning games and technologies while meeting with their developers (who were, in turn, supported by 30 programs across the federal government). Also, during the week leading up to the event, Department senior leaders headlined five technology showcases, and developers visited 30 area schools for classroom demonstrations and career presentations (see #EDGamesExpo).
- The Department earned high marks from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform for it work to modernize and secure its information technology systems. In fact, in rankings issued last month, it earned an A+ on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard. This is a major about-face for the agency, which, just four years ago, scored an F.
- In advocating for Education Freedom Scholarships, Secretary DeVos highlighted on her Twitter feed op-eds by North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and Mansfield, Ohio, mother Tera Myers.
- The Secretary joined U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Arizona State University President Michael Crow for discussion on the future of education and workforce development at the Council on Competitiveness’ 2019 National Competitiveness Forum (photos and video).
- Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan visited schools in Arkansas (see Jonesboro and Maynard and Searcy) and Missouri (see Willard).
- The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) partnered with the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) to present a webinar, “Students with Disabilities and the Use of Restraint and Seclusion in K-12 Public Schools,” as technical assistance to support children with disabilities and those within school systems serving students.
- Also, an OSERS blog post spotlights a video on recruiting, training, and employing individuals with disabilities.
- FSA released a series of updates to the quarterly application, disbursement, and portfolio reports on its FSA Data Center. The outstanding federal student loan portfolio today is $1.51 trillion. Growth of the portfolio has slowed since 2010, but, year-over-year, the total portfolio has increased about 4.9%.
- In a New Year’s Update, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director Mark Schneider gives the research community a sense of IES’s progress and challenges.
- In a Federal Register notice, the Department proposes some priorities under the Competitive Grants for State Assessments program. (Note: Comments are welcome on or before February 7.)
- Another Federal Register notice details the Department’s proposed Study of District and School Uses of Federal Education Funds, which would examine targeting and resource allocation for five major education programs -- Part A of Titles I, II, III, and IV of ESEA and Part B of IDEA -- in a nationally representative sample of 400 districts. (Note: Comments are welcome on or before February 24.)
- The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released updated joint guidance addressing the application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule to records maintained on students, especially in connection with health and safety emergency situations.
- President Trump announced his intent to nominate two individuals as members of the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.
- HHS awarded six planning grants and 20 renewal grants to states and territories under the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five program. (Note: The additional $25 million appropriated for the program in FY 2020 will allow for three more states to receive funding once those funds are made available to the agency.)
- The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy awarded 42 new grants under its Drug-Free Communities Support Program, raising the total number of grants awarded with FY 2019 funding to 719.
Quote to Note
"The government funding bills I just signed into law contain big victories for my Administration and the American people. They enable us to continue to advance our pro-growth, pro-worker, pro-family, America First agenda…. The legislation increases access to affordable and high-quality child care for American families. It also expands apprenticeships and workforce development programs and extends the paid parental leave tax credit and the work opportunity tax credit -- providing grant incentives for businesses to hire and retain well-qualified employees. The legislation builds on criminal justice reform efforts by providing $75 million for my Administration’s historic criminal justice reform initiative, the First Step Act…. Taken together, the government funding bills guarantee that critical priorities…will be met in the upcoming year."
President Donald Trump (12/20/19), in a statement regarding FY 2020 appropriations legislation
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, culminating in the celebration of National Freedom Day (on February 1). Trafficking can involve school-age youth, particularly those made vulnerable by challenging family situations, and can take a wide variety of forms, including forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation. A Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center document shares resources on integrating human trafficking with school emergency operations plans.
On January 13 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the Department will host the opening of the National PTA’s annual Reflections Student Arts Showcase, titled “Heroes Around Me.” The event will feature remarks by Secretary DeVos and National PTA leadership and performances by students in many mediums, including dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, and visual arts. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and exhibit viewing will conclude the event to celebrate the award-winning student works and their educators. (Note: To attend the opening or learn more about the agency’s year-round exhibit program, please contact Juliette.Rizzo@ed.gov.)
The Corporation for National and Community Service is asking Americans to appropriately honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy on January 20 by making the holiday a day ON -- versus a day off. MLK Day became a national day of service in 1994, when Congress passed legislation to give the holiday even greater significance. A web page offers resources and enables individuals to find volunteer opportunities and organizers to register projects nationwide.
Calling teacher leaders! Do you have an idea to address a perceived need in your school, district, or state? The Teach to Lead team is accepting idea submissions through February 10 for its 19th Teacher Leadership Summit, March 27-29 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where teams will receive critical support to turn ideas into action.
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