Quote to Note
Esser II Fund
Complete the FAFSA!
Other Presidential Actions
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
"The eyes of America's children and students -- the rising generation who will inherit the republic we leave them -- are watching what is unfolding in Washington today. We must set a better example for them, and we must teach them the solemn obligations and duties that come with the title 'American.' The peaceful transfer of power is what separates American representative democracy from banana republics. Congress assembled today to fulfill its Constitutional duty to certify the election of the next President of the United States, the same Constitution I swore an oath to support and defend. An angry mob cannot be allowed to attack our Capitol and impede this process. The disruptions and violence must end, the law must be upheld, and the work of the people must go on."
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (1/6/21), in a statement on the breach of the U.S. Capitol
The Secretary resigned, effective January 8, 2021, stating, "Holding this position has been the honor of a lifetime, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to serve America and her students."
On December 27, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, making appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021, and providing COVID-19 relief funding (Secretary DeVos' statement).
In the $1.4 trillion omnibus funding agreement is $73.5 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Education, an increase of $785 million over the Fiscal Year 2020 level. Among the highlights: $16.5 billion for Title I grants to school districts (+$227 million), $12.9 billion for special education grants to states (+$173 million), $1.3 billion for career and technical education state grants (+$52 million), and an increase in the maximum Pell Grant by $150, to $6,495, for the 2021-22 academic year.
In the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package is $54.3 billion for K-12 schools (see below), $22.7 billion for higher education (including $1.7 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs], Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and tribal colleges), and $4.05 billion for the nation's governors to spend on education priorities (including $2.75 billion set aside for private schools). Other federal agencies will administer the package's $10 billion for child care and $7 billion for broadband.
The legislation also includes a bipartisan deal to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form, end a 26-year ban on providing Pell Grants to incarcerated students, and forgive nearly $1.3 billion in federal loans to HBCUs. And, it extends the amount of time undergraduate students can go to school without accruing interest on their need-based federal student loans.
Esser II Fund
This week, Secretary DeVos announced the availability of $54.3 billion in emergency funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to support reopening schools, facilitate continuity of learning, and measure and address the significant learning loss caused by a lack of in-person educational opportunities.
This new funding, authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, 2021, is more than four times the $13 million in ESSER Fund assistance provided last spring under the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Consistent with Congressional intent to provide funding quickly and with minimal administrative burden, State Education Agencies (SEAs) are not required to submit an additional application to receive their ESSER II award (see methodology and state allocation table).
Although the allowable use of funds is similar for ESSER I and ESSER II, there are critical differences, including the period of availability, equitable services to non-public schools, maintenance of effort, and a report on efforts to measure and address learning loss. SEAs should also plan to use all their remaining ESSER I funds before making use of ESSER II funds, given the shorter remaining period of availability. A fact sheet offers further detail on these key distinctions.
The Department will announce the availability of emergency funding through the Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund next week.
The public can track how states, districts, and institutions of higher education are using the CARES Act's Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) monies through the ESF Transparency Portal.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted nationwide waivers, through June 30, 2021, to support access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19. These waivers relate to the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Seamless Summer Option, and the Summer Food Service Program. Relatedly, USDA administers the at-risk after-school component of the Child and Adult Care Food Program. While USDA, not the Department of Education, administers federal meal programs, there are connections between some of these programs and state-managed formula programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). A fact sheet outlines two connections.
New from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Making Decisions about Children Attending In-Person School During the COVID-19 Pandemic -- Information for Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers (updated January 5, 2021); Considerations for Operating K-12 Schools During COVID-19 (updated December 30, 2020); Interim Guidance for Case Investigation and Contact Tracing in Schools (updated December 30, 2020); Resources for K-12 Teachers and Staff (updated January 6, 2021); Strategies for Protecting K-12 School Staff from COVID-19 (updated January 4, 2021); Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education (updated December 31, 2020); Help Children Learn at Home (updated December 31, 2020); Considerations for Youth Sports Administrators (updated December 31, 2020); and Suggestions for Youth and Summer Camps (updated January 4, 2021).
The Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Office of Educational Technology (OET), and Institute of Education Sciences (IES) developed "Ensuring Students Online Safety" -- resources to support parents and families, teachers, and school and district leaders in providing a responsible, safe, and secure digital experience. These resources include Promoting a Safe and Secure Digital Learning Environment; Ensuring Your Child's Safety, Privacy, and Responsible Technology Use; Keeping Your Child Safe Learning Online; Addressing Adversarial- and Human-Caused Threats That May Impact Students, Staff, and Visitors; Integrating Cybersecurity with Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) for K-12 Schools; Cybersecurity Considerations for K-12 Schools and Districts; Cyber Safety Quick Links for Protecting Youth; and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Public Service Announcement: Child Abductors Potentially Using Social Media or Social Networks to Lure Victims In Lieu of an In-Person Ruse. Similar resources are available at OESE Resources, OSEP Continuity of Learning During COVID-19, OET Resources (see English and Spanish), IES COVID-19 Evidence-Based Resources, and SchoolSafety.gov.
Complete the FAFSA!
Since the 2021-22 FAFSA form became available on October 1, 2020, the completion rate among high school seniors is down 12% compared to the same time last year. This means that students across the U.S. could miss the opportunity to take advantage of federal grants, work-study funds, and loans to continue their education. Moreover, since some states distribute aid on a first-come, first-served basis, students may miss crucial deadlines for state and/or institutional aid by waiting to file the FAFSA form. The Department's Federal Student Aid (FSA) office is urging high school seniors to file the FAFSA form to help defray, and in some cases completely cover, the costs of their postsecondary education. FSA has made it easier than ever for students and families to access resources at StudentAid.gov and via the myStudentAid mobile application using a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. Resources include enhanced help topics that present further guidance through the FAFSA form. Plus, skip-logic functionality ensures applicants see only the questions that pertain to them. To see how many high school seniors have submitted and completed a FAFSA form by high school, visit the FSA Data Center.
Other Presidential Actions
Last month, the President signed into law two additional bipartisan education bills.
On December 22, he signed the Stop Student Debt Relief Scams Act, establishing penalties for individuals who obtain unauthorized access to certain student loan information and expanding the existing requirements for student loan exit counseling.
On December 31, he signed the HBCU Propelling Agency Relationships Toward a New Era of Results for Students (PARTNERS) Act, requiring federal agencies to submit annual plans on increasing the participation of HBCUs in their programs and establishing the President's Board of Advisors on HBCUs.
The President also signed an Executive Order offering flexibility to award disadvantaged children with emergency K-12 scholarships to access in-person educational opportunities. The order allows states and other eligible entities to use available federal Community Service Block Grants -- totaling $1.7 billion in Fiscal Year 2020 -- to provide scholarships to families whose children cannot access in-person learning. Such scholarships can help families pay for private school tuition, home schooling, micro schooling, learning pod expenses, special education services, or tutoring (White House fact sheet and Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] Secretary Alex Azar's statement).Odds and Ends
- President Trump issued a presidential message on National Mentoring Month 2021, and the Department of Education shared a site showing where you can volunteer today.
- A Homeroom blog spotlights the U.S.-Taiwan Education Initiative.
- In a Federal Register notice, Secretary DeVos announced a priority and definitions for discretionary grant programs that may be tapped to promote the use of agency funds to support remote learning.
- The Department’s Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center announced a new Virtual Trainings by Request program designed to assist schools, districts, states, and institutions of higher education with professional development and school safety, security, emergency management, and preparedness capacity-building efforts.
- As a wrap up for what has been an unprecedented year in many ways, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) takes a look back at some of its most popular content from 2020.
Attention educators and families! Please join the Department on January 14, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time, for a forum on the state of student learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and tools that support student learning now. Institute for Education Sciences (IES) Director Mark Schneider will moderate a discussion with national leaders in the research field, Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) and NWEA, as they review findings on national learning loss. Then, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development (OPEPD) Assistant Secretary Jim Blew will moderate a discussion on the power of individualized learning platforms, with a couple of examples for how to approach personalized learning. Register today for the access link.
AmeriCorps is asking Americans to appropriately honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy on January 18 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.
National School Choice Week (NSCW) is January 24-30. The effort recognizes all K-12 options, including traditional public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling. For 2021, celebrations will focus on projects and activities -- not in-person events -- as the U.S. fights the spread of COVID-19.
Our nation will shortly observe a transition from one presidential administration to the next. Like all other recurring publications of the Department, ED Review will be on hiatus as it is evaluated by the incoming administration. We expect ED Review or another resource will be available in the near future to provide updates on agency activities. In the interim, visit http://www.ed.gov for the latest news and information. Thank you for your patience.
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