First 100 Days/Next Steps
Safely Reopening America's Schools
Help is Here Tour
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
First 100 Days/Next Steps
Yesterday marked President Biden's 100th day in office. Over his first 100 days, the President acted to get America back on track by addressing the multiple crises facing the nation: vaccinating to beat the pandemic, delivering much needed assistance to families, making transformative investments to rescue and rebuild the economy, and showing that government can deliver for its people. Among other critical goals, a majority of K-8 schools have reopened for in-person learning and an unprecedented level of resources and support have been provided to preK-12 schools, institutions of higher education, and postsecondary students and borrowers (fact sheet).
In the coming weeks and months, the Department of Education will continue supporting reopening and recovery efforts. Beyond helping more schools implement strategies to reopen for in-person learning, it will work with communities to ensure students' social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs and educator and staff well-being are met. It will also work to ensure federal funding is utilized to rebuild the education system back better than it was before March 2020.
As next steps, the President has proposed the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan -- once-in-a-generation investments in the nation's future. The American Jobs Plan will create millions of good jobs, rebuild the country's physical infrastructure and workforce, and spark innovation and manufacturing here at home. The American Families Plan is an investment in children and families -- helping families cover basic expenses, lowering health insurance premiums, and continuing the American Rescue Plan's (ARP) historic reductions in child poverty.
Safely Reopening America's Schools
Last week, the Department released the state plan application template for the ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. This application supports states in describing how they will use federal resources to continue to reopen schools, sustain operations, and support students -- particularly those most impacted by the pandemic. Last month, states received access to two-thirds of their ARP ESSER allocation, or $81 billion. After the final one-third is made available, upon approval of their plans, states will have received access to nearly $122 billion (Secretary Cardona's letter to Chief State School Officers and fact sheet).
The plan is an opportunity for states and school districts to engage the public to ensure that the needs of students and communities are best reflected in state and local spending.
In their plans, states must describe how they and districts will demonstrate transparency in their planning, identify and meet the needs of students most impacted by the pandemic, choose effective evidence-based interventions, and prioritize educational equity, inclusive stakeholder engagement, and strong fiscal safeguards. These plans will provide critical information to the public and the Department about the use of unprecedented funding. They will also inform the agency's technical assistance to states and districts, as well as the agency's approach to monitoring implementation of funding.
States must submit their ARP ESSER applications by June 7, and the Department will approve applications and distribute remaining funds expeditiously once plans are received and reviewed.
To further support states in completing their applications and meeting ARP ESSER requirements, the Department also issued a notice of interim final requirements with additional details.
Also last week, the Department announced state allocations under the $800 million ARP ESSER Homeless Children and Youth Fund and distributed $200 million in funding. With this announcement, the Secretary issued a letter to Chief State School Officers underscoring the urgent need to use these funds to identify those who are homeless, offer wrap-around services in light of the impact of the pandemic, and provide assistance to enable homeless students to attend school and fully participate in school activities, including in-person instruction this spring and upcoming summer learning and enrichment programming. Remaining funding will be allocated as soon as June.
That same day, the Secretary held a roundtable discussion with students who have experienced homelessness, centering the conversation on lived experiences and critical federal investments (tweet).
Separately, on the Homeroom blog, read "A Story of Homelessness, Perseverance, and the Impact of Caring Educators."
In related news:
- This week, the Department launched the Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative, a professional learning community of 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, three territories, and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) working together to use federal relief funding to support as many students as possible through educational and enriching summer programming (press release).
- Also this week, the Department launched the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse, highlighting the innovative work underway nationwide in continuing to reopen K-12 schools, early childhood centers, and higher education institutions. The web site includes resources targeting the needs of students on three key topics: safe and healthy environments; supports for students; and teacher, faculty, and staff well-being, professional development, and supports (press release).
- Furthermore, the agency hosted the latest in its "Lessons from the Field" webinar series, running bi-weekly through June. This third webinar, "Family and Community Engagement and Returning to In-Person Instruction," featured a brief overview of research and a panel of practitioners sharing promising practices and effective strategies for meaningful family and community engagement.
- The Department of Agriculture announced a new effort to provide adequate nutrition to more than 30 million children over the summer and extended a broad range of flexibilities (through June 20, 2022) to allow schools to return to serving healthy meals in the fall.
- On May 12, eligible households will be able to enroll in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to receive a monthly discount off the cost of broadband service from an approved provider. The program is open to households with children receiving free or reduced-price lunch or school breakfast and Pell Grant recipients (press release).
Help is Here Tour
On April 19, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Cardona were in Dixon, Illinois, to visit Sauk Valley Community College. They toured two laboratories and observed a demonstration of a robotic welder. Notably, the institution offers tuition breaks to students who complete community service while they are in high school (tweets 1 and 2).
Also that day, in North Carolina, Vice President Harris visited Guilford Technical Community College's Advanced Manufacturing Campus in Greensboro (tweet) and Thomas Built Buses in High Point (tweet).
Then, on April 23, the First Lady visited Hunters Point Boarding School in St. Michael's, Arizona, on the outskirts of the Navajo Nation capital (tweet).
Note: Video is available from the Secretary's earlier stop at Beverly Hills Middle School in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.
On Earth Day (April 22), the Secretary announced the 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. A total of 27 schools, three early learning centers, five districts, and five postsecondary institutions -- nominated by 20 states -- were selected for their progress in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education. To learn more about the honorees, see the nomination packages, highlights document, and Homeroom blog. (Note: There are resources available for all schools at all levels through the agency's Green Strides portal.)
In a recent letter to superintendents, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg outlined current efforts to address questions regarding the 2020-21 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recognizes that the pandemic has affected the way that many schools provide instruction. To assist districts and schools that have offered virtual instruction for all or part of the school year, OCR has added new instructions and directional indicators to district- and school-level forms, clarifying how to respond to in-person, virtual, and hybrid educational environments. (Note: For technical assistance, superintendents may reach out to the CRDC's Partner Support Center at email@example.com or 855-255-6901.)
Odds and Ends
- On April 20, Secretary Cardona participated in an open press roundtable with students, educators, and school administrators who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders (tweet).
- On April 26, honoring the Month of the Military Child, the Secretary participated in a roundtable with military-connected students who are in schools near military installations around the world.
- The Department published the list of semifinalists for the 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which honors some of the nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors.
- A new Homeroom blog focuses on supporting both first-generation and low-income students beyond the college acceptance letter.
- Other new Homeroom blogs: "Let's Talk About Title IX" and "Education's Role in Second Chance Month and National Reentry Week."
- According to the "2020 State of Preschool Yearbook," by the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER), the pandemic set back state preschool enrollment and funding across the country, more than any other education sector.
- The Department's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) released two Fast Facts that take a closer look at the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Section 618 data and Part B personnel.
- The Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz, in conjunction with the Department, presented a virtual peer-to-peer jazz performance by its all-star septet of students on April 21.
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved the nominations of Cindy Marten to be Deputy Secretary of Education and James Kvaal to be Under Secretary of Education, sending them to the full Senate.
- Meanwhile, President Biden sent the Senate his nominations of Gwen Graham as the Department's Assistant Secretary for Legislation and Congressional Affairs and Roberto Rodriguez as the Department's Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, and Development, and Secretary Cardona issued statements of support (1 and 2).
Quote to Note
"When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated and best-prepared nation in the world. But the world is catching up. They are not waiting. Twelve years is no longer enough today to compete in the 21st century. That's why the American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America -- starting as early as we can. We add two years of universal, high-quality preschool for every 3- and 4- year-old in America. The research shows that when a young child goes to school -- not day care -- they are far more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. Then we add two years of free community college. And we will increase Pell Grants and investment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs], Tribal colleges, and [other] minority-serving institutions."
President Joseph Biden (4/28/21), from his Address to a Joint Session of Congress
The Administration will celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3-7) with a variety of digital activities.
The next webinar in the Department's science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) briefing series, focused on summertime learning, is scheduled for May 4, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Eastern Time. Anyone may watch live or the archived session. Previous briefings are posted on the agency's STEM landing page.
During the STEM for All Video Showcase (May 11-18), one can view short videos depicting federally funded projects improving STEM and computer science education. Interested parties are also invited to discuss the videos online with presenters and other visitors and vote for their favorite presentations for a public choice award.
On May 25, from 1 to 2:15 p.m. ET, please join the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for a virtual event with analysis and discussion of the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science results for grades 4, 8, and 12.
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