Secretary's Remarks: Task Force Briefing
Distance Learning Rules
Combatting Sexual Assault
ED.GOV Redesign Challenge
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Secretary's Remarks: Task Force Briefing
On March 27, Secretary DeVos joined President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing. She was invited by the Vice President to provide the nation with information about the Department of Education's response to COVID-19. Below are excerpts from her remarks, with hyperlinks to key policy documents (see also Secretary's full remarks and video).
"Let me start by saying thank you, Mr. President, for your clear-eyed leadership during these challenging times for our country and for the world. The bold actions you have taken are making a significant difference. That's certainly true for America's students and teachers.
"My team and I are in contact daily with governors, state school chiefs, college presidents, superintendents, and local education leaders. We are quickly responding to their needs so they can do the next right thing for their students. Most governors have decided to close some or all schools in their states for a period of time. As a result, students may not be able to take federal mandated standardized tests this spring…. We made the process to delay these tests for a year fast and painless (see Broad Flexibilities Provided to States to Bypass ESSA Mandated Testing for the 2019-20 School Year). Forty-eight states and territories have already requested the waiver. We are approving the requests within 24 hours. [Approval letters are posted online.]
"We also released additional information making clear the expectation that education will continue for all students. The transition to distance and online learning needs to happen quickly, and it needs to include meaningful instruction and supports for children with disabilities (see Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing Serving Children with Disabilities During National Emergency). Learning should not stop or be denied because schools fear federal regulators or fear doing something different…. This national emergency gives all of us the opportunity to come together to engage all students out of principle.
"We are compiling all the tools we have produced, along with the great resources states are offering to help keep learning going. There are many existing online learning platforms, and many states were already offering a robust menu of courses virtually. We will be adding that information to our [COVID-19 resources and information web page] on an ongoing basis.
"We are using every tool possible to extend flexibility to states and communities. This includes funding flexibility. Where we don't have the latitude, we are working with Congress on solutions. One area is providing direct financial support to students, families, and teachers. We will propose Congress provide microgrants to help students continue to learn. These would be focused toward the most disadvantaged students in states or communities where their school system has simply shut down. I've always believed education funding should be tied to students, not systems, and that necessity has never been more evident.
"We will also support microgrants to teachers, to help them pivot to support all of their students in a different environment than they've been used to. We know they are dealing with an unprecedented situation. It's been truly inspiring to hear story after story of teachers rising to the occasion and meeting the unique needs of their students.
"Let me also touch briefly on how we're supporting students pursing higher education. At the start of this outbreak, we immediately gave institutions of higher education regulatory flexibility so learning could go online (see Guidance for Interruptions of Study Related to Coronavirus) — and it did. In many cases, it was a seamless transition, and learning continues. And we are continuing to cut federal bureaucracy and let schools rise to meet this challenge.
"Mr. President, you promised to defeat this invisible enemy and to keep our economy strong. You took immediate action and provided student loan relief to tens of millions of borrowers. We set all federally held student loans to zero interest rates and deferred payments for 60 days (see Suspending Federal Student Loan Payments and Waiving Interest During National Emergency). Now, with the CARES Act that you signed into law, Mr. President, those actions will extend to six months. Those who are, or become, delinquent on their payments as a result of the national emergency will receive an automatic suspension of payments, without having to request it. Additionally, we've stopped federal wage garnishments altogether for students and families in default. And, I have asked private collection agencies that contract with the Department to stop all collections correspondence (see Stopping Wage Garnishment, Collections Actions for Borrowers).
"These are tough times, but ‘We the People' are tougher. So, in closing, let me offer just a few words of encourage. To our students, your education can — and should — continue. Learning can happen anywhere, and we will help make sure it does. We believe in you! To our teachers, we will support you and help you. You are doing great work. Keep it up! And to every parent and family, we know these are challenging times. But it's in the face of great challenges that Americans have always risen to the occasion and embraced greatness. And I know we'll do that once again."
Over the last two weeks, the White House, the Department of Education, and other federal agencies have released more guidance to support schools, educators, and families regarding COVID-19. Many of the new documents are listed below. The Department continues to update its COVID-19 information and resources web page with the most current information, and any questions for the Department may be directed to COVIDemail@example.com.
- Coronavirus.gov, CDC.gov/Coronavirus, and USA.gov/Coronavirus
- President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America — 30 Days to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 (extended through April 30, 2020)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations for U.S. Community Facilities with Suspected/Confirmed Coronavirus Disease (updated April 1, 2020)
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Coronavirus Rumor Control
- The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Virtual Learning resources, presentation, and webinar recording
- Federal Student Aid (FSA)-issued Coronavirus Information for Students, Borrowers, and Parents (updated April 1, 2020)
- Perkins V State Plans and COVID-19 — Frequently Asked Questions (press release)
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Performance Accountability Provisions and COVID-19 — Frequently Asked Questions
- Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and COVID-19 — Frequently Asked Questions
- Department of Agriculture Makes it Easier to Feed Schoolchildren and Those Who Need Food During the COVID-19 National Emergency
- Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Checklists and Tools to Accelerate Relief for State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Programs
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Extends E-Rate Program Deadlines Due to COVID-19
Moreover, the Department briefed K-12 education stakeholders on March 20 (readout) and higher education stakeholders on March 31 (readout), while Vice President Pence and Secretary DeVos held a call with several national K-12 education organizations on March 25 (readout).
Distance Learning Rules
On April 1, Secretary DeVos proposed new rules to govern distance learning for higher education students. Although work on the Distance Learning and Innovation regulation started over a year ago, the COVID-19 national emergency underscores the need for reform and for all institutions to have a robust capacity to teach remotely. Crafted by a diverse group of experts during the Department’s 2019 negotiated rulemaking, the proposed new rules enhance educational quality and reduce barriers to innovation while also maintaining safeguards to limit the risks to students and taxpayers. (Note: The draft regulation is available for public comment through May 4.)
Combatting Sexual Assault
The Secretary announced last week that the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is requiring Pennsylvania State University to make major changes to its Title IX procedures after finding that the institution failed to protect students and address their complaints of sexual abuse in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. OCR found that the institution violated Title IX in different ways across several years. It also found that the institution had imposed, from 2017 to 2019, interim suspensions prior to providing the accused an opportunity to respond to allegations and structured hearings in a way that may have precluded relevant information. Penn State must now review and revise its Title IX policies to ensure they provide for an appropriate response to complaints of sexual harassment, revise its record-keeping practices to ensure it is adequately and accurately documenting all complaints and the university’s response to such complaints, and report to OCR on the handling of all complaints for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years. The Resolution Agreement also requires Penn State to provide individual remedies for survivors whose complaints OCR determined the institution failed to handle promptly and equitably, facilitate additional Title IX training for university staff (including athletic staff), and notify participants in its youth programs and their parents and guardians that Title IX prohibits sexual harassment of youth participants.
ED.GOV Redesign Challenge
The Department is seeking proposals for the redesign of ED.gov. The winning proposal(s) will incorporate accessible content for desktop, mobile, and tablet users; integrated social media, RSS feeds, and subscription services; an elegant, clean, user-centered look and feel; strong, consistent agency branding; new and innovative tools that enhance user experience; and engaging and easy-to-navigate pages. The design must use the agency’s existing color scheme and seal and be in compliance with all federal standards. The Department is offering a prize of up to $50,000. Highly rated participants may be invited to present their prototype to a panel of subject matter experts, and designers will have an opportunity to compete for the concept implementation contract. The deadline for submissions is June 15.
Odds and Ends
- In a special tweet and video, Secretary DeVos praises America's dedicated principals and teachers.
- The Department donated 5,760 N95 masks that were retrieved from storage at one of its Washington, D.C., offices this week. FSA employees helped load and deliver 72 cases to the D.C. Armory, where they will be distributed to local hospitals. FEMA welcomes offers of medical supplies or equipment.
- From Department Press Secretary Angela Morabito: "We are working diligently to go through all of the applicable provisions of the CARES Act and look forward to providing details to the field in the coming days on how to access the stimulus funding Congress provided."
- Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director Mark Schneider discusses "IES in a Time of Pandemic" in a new IES blog post.
- Another IES blog post, "The ED Games Expo ‘Goes Viral' to Support Distance Learning," details the 82 learning games and technologies developed with federal funding available online at no cost until the end of the school year.
- Speaking of ongoing IES work, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) issued Data Points on U.S. public school students enrolled in schools with violent incidents and hate crimes and expulsion from U.S. public school as a disciplinary action.
- The Department named Elizabeth Schmitz, environmental and sustainability education program supervisor with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington, as the recipient of the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Director's Award.
- The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service released its final report, "Inspired to Serve," with its findings and recommendations to Congress, the President, and the American people about how to modify the Selective Service System and increase participation in service.
Quote to Note
"It was extremely disappointing to hear that some school districts were using information from the Department of Education as an excuse not to educate kids. This is a time for creativity and an opportunity to pursue as much flexibility as possible so that learning continues. It is a time for all of us to pull together to do what’s right for our nation’s students. Nothing issued by this Department should in any way prevent any school from offering educational programs through distance instruction. We need schools to educate all students out of principle, rather than educate no students out of fear. These are challenging times, but we expect schools to rise to the occasion — and the Department stands ready to assist you in your efforts."
Secretary Betsy DeVos (3/21/20), in a, in statement on providing distance learning in compliance with federal law
Among other observations, April is the 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.
A reminder! On April 23, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Eastern Time, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) and NCES will livestream the release of the 2018 Nation's Report Cards in Civics, Geography, and U.S. History. Register today for the event, which will present highlights in the three subjects and feature distinguished speakers who will share strategies, initiatives, and resources that can strengthen and improve education in these areas.
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