Safely Reopening America's Schools
Religious Liberty Guidance
Cube Satellite Challenge
Title IX Regulations
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Safely Reopening America's Schools
As schools begin to reopen across the country, the Administration continues to strongly support the resumption of in-person instruction (fact sheet).
On August 12, President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary DeVos, and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway welcomed a group of students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and healthcare professionals to the White House to discuss how best to get students back to school (1600 Daily Recap with video excerpts, remarks by the President, full summit video, and "From the Desk of the Secretary" message).
The Secretary later joined former Governor Mike Huckabee on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle" to reinforce the Administration's commitment to getting students back to full-time learning this fall and empowering parents with options to make that happen.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidance for K-12 schools on using cloth face coverings and masks.
And, per a White House Council of Economic Advisors article, "Reopening Schools is Key to Unlocking the Full Potential of America's Children."
Earlier, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum to continue the pause on payments and interest for federal student loan borrowers until the end of the calendar year. Back in March, he temporarily suspended interest on federally held student loans, and the Secretary affirmed that borrowers could stop monthly payments. Then, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act codified the policy in law through September 30. "Today, I'm extending this policy through the end of the year, and we'll extend it further than that, most likely right after December 1," the President said at the signing ceremony. The memo states an extension of student loan leeway is "appropriate until such time that the economy has stabilized, schools have re-opened, and the crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided." (Note: In a blog post, Federal Student Aid (FSA) Chief Operating Officer Mark Brown explains "We're Taking Steps to Improve Federal Loan Servicing.")
Abstracts, applications, and technical review forms from the Education Stabilization Fund-Reimaging K-12 Education Models grant competition are posted online.
Secretary DeVos announced a new competitive grant program designed to help institutions of higher education emerge from the pandemic more resilient and better able to expand educational opportunities for students. Institutional Resilience and Expanded Postsecondary Opportunity (IREPO) grants may be used in a variety of ways, including resuming operations, supporting students, reducing virus transmission, and developing more agile instructional delivery models for students who cannot or choose not to attend classes in person. This program also recognizes the benefits to high school students of starting college early — while still in high school — and gives priority to those applicants who plan to expand opportunities to students who live or attend high school in an Opportunity Zone or rural community. (Note: The deadline for applications is October 20.)
The Department's Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) is enabling 29 American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services (AIVRS) projects to receive funding for an additional period.
The Department's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) published its list of waivers granted within the last 30 days under the CARES Act.
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is proposing a data collection to examine how the pandemic may be influencing: (1) implementation of and waivers from key provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act(ESEA), reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and (2) state and district use of federal funds, including those provided specifically to help in the recovery.
Religious Liberty Guidance
Secretary DeVos recently announced guidance to protect the religious liberty of individuals and institutionsparticipating in Department programs. This guidance is part of ongoing efforts by the agency to advance religious protections and deliver on the President's Executive Order 13798, "Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty." It follows the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020) and Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer (2017), which curtailed religious discrimination and, thus, strengthened protections for religious organizations.
The guidance was drafted pursuant to a January 16, 2020, directive from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requiring each federal agency to publish policies detailing how they will administer grants in compliance with Executive Order 13798 and the U.S. Attorney General's October 6, 2017, memorandum.
Among other things, the guidance:
- affirms that religious organizations are equally eligible to participate in Department-administered programs as their secular counterparts;
- affirms that financial award decisions are made based on merit, not based on an organization's religion, religious belief, or the lack thereof;
- states that religious organizations receiving federal financial assistance via a Department program must comply with program-specific legislation and regulations, but clarifies that these organizations may continue to carry out their missions and maintain their religious characters;
- reminds states that they may not use Blaine Amendments to deny faith-based organizations grants or contracts, since this violates Department regulations against discrimination on the basis of an organization's religious affiliation or character; and
- affirms that students and/or borrowers seeking to participate in federal loan programs and beneficiaries seeking to participate in federal social service programs will not be penalized or singled out for disadvantages on the basis of religion.
Also, the guidance clarifies the role of the Department's Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives as the agency's office that collaborates with faith-based and community leaders to maximize participation of religious organizations in programs, while eliminating barriers in the grantmaking or regulatory process to safeguard religious liberty.
Most importantly, the guidance announces a new process by which individuals and organizations can inform the Department of a burden or potential burden on their religious exercise under the Religious Freedom Restoration Actto adequately protect their religious liberties while participating in federal programs.
Cube Satellite Challenge
On August 18, advancing the Administration's commitment to expand student interest in the booming science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, the Department launched CTE Mission: CubeSat, a national challenge to inspire students to build technical skills for careers in space and beyond. High school students nationwide are invited to design and build cube satellite (CubeSat) prototypes — or satellites that aid in space research — bringing space missions out of the clouds and into the classroom.
Schools interested in entering the challenge must form a team and submit a mission proposal by 5:59 p.m. Eastern Time on October 16 — no in-person collaboration and/or prior experience with CubeSat is required. The online submission form asks for school information, a team profile, a project proposal, and anticipated learning outcomes. Curated educational resources are available to students and teachers online in the CTE Mission: CubeSat Resource Hub. To learn more, schools can join a virtual information session on September 1.
Up to five finalists will be selected to receive prizes and participate in Phase 2, which runs from January to May 2021. Finalists will have access to expert mentorship and additional virtual resources as they build prototypes and plan flight events. The Department understands that schools will need flexibility to safely collaborate due to the pandemic. It looks forward to receiving creative solutions in the mission proposals.
Title IX Regulations
Secretary DeVos launched resources to help students and schools understand the protections provided by the Department's historic Title IX regulations, as the rule took full effect on August 14. A dedicated Title IX web site is a one-stop shop for key information, including how to file a complaint, an overview of the regulations' protections for survivors, and a specific webinar on how schools can fully implement and uphold the provisions in the law.
The site is an online hub to help students understand what the new rule means for them, including a robust fact sheet that dispels myths about the rule. It also contains information on how courts have opined on the new rule and the importance of due process and features statements from lawmakers, attorneys, and other thought leaders.
The Title IX regulations went into effect after the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by 17 state attorneys general. In response, the Secretary issued a statement, hailing the ruling as "another victory for students and reaffirm[ing] that students' rights under Title IX go hand-in-hand with basic American principles of fairness and due process."
Odds and Ends
- The Department launched an open innovation challenge this year to rethink ED.gov. It received 60 submissions, and, after several rounds of judging, announced U.Group as the grand prize winner.
- Last week, the Department awarded $3.9 million in grants to 17 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) in eight states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to improve science and engineering education programs for students. These awards were a part of the agency's Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program, which supports expanding the scientific and technological capacity of the U.S. to boost global competitiveness by increasing the number of minority graduates in STEM fields.
- A new National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) First Look report presents findings about young children's care and education, including participation rates in weekly non-parental care arrangements, how well these arrangements cover work hours, costs of care, months spent in care, location of care, factors used to select a care arrangement, and factors making it difficult to find care.
- Also, NCES released web tables providing the most recent national statistics on students who first began postsecondary education in the 2011-12 academic year, with detailed information on students' characteristics, tuition, price of attendance, and financial aid receipt, as well as estimates of retention, persistence, attainment, withdraw, stopout, and transfer rates.
- The White House is taking decisive action to release more spectrum for commercial use, strengthening America's leadership in 5G communications.
Quote to Note
"Today, I'm honored to sign a proclamation celebrating August 18, 2020, as the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. In the summer of 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton stood before the first-ever women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, and declared that women should enjoy this fundamental civil right…. Seven decades later, the suffrage movement succeeded. On this day in 1920, the United States ratified the 19th Amendment. It was a monumental victory for equality, for justice, and a monumental victory for America. Today, a record-breaking 131 women are serving in Congress. Nearly 70 million women vote in elections. Fifty-six percent of our country's college students are women. More than 11 million women own successful businesses. In other words, women dominate the nation. I think we can say that very strongly…. And I wanted to just add something because this was brought up a week ago, and I was so surprised that it was never done before. Because later today, I will be signing a full and complete pardon for Susan B. Anthony [stemming from the only vote she cast in an election]."
President Donald Trump (8/18/20), in remarks on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment
The Department has invited governors or their designees to nominate up to two classified school employees for the inaugural Recognizing Inspiring School Employee (RISE) Award by November 1. Those who work in public or private PK-12 schools as paraprofessionals or in clerical and administrative services, transportation services, food and nutrition services, custodial and maintenance services, security services, health and student services, technical services, and skilled trades are eligible for this recognition.
The next webinar in the Department's STEM briefing series, covering cybersecurity education, is scheduled for August 25, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. ET. Anyone may watch live or the archived session. Previous briefings are posted on the agency's STEM landing page.
Also on August 25, at 6 p.m. ET, the Rural Tech Project is hosting a virtual panel of experts to discuss community engagement and coalition building. The panel will share how Rural Tech Project entrants can approach building and maintaining partnerships among schools, school districts, and community organizations. They will also explore topics ranging from assessing community needs to creating structures and systems for sustainable partnerships.
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