ED Review (06/11/21)

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June 11, 2021


National Month of Action 

On June 2, President Biden announced a National Month of Action to mobilize an all-of-America sprint to get 70% of U.S. adults at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot by July 4, so that more people can get the protection they need to be safe from a pandemic that has taken the lives of nearly 600,000 Americans. 

During the month, national organizations, local government leaders, businesses, community- and faith-based partners, colleges, athletes, celebrities, social media influencers, young people, and thousands of volunteers across the nation will work together to get their communities vaccinated. 

The President noted many actions to make it even easier to get vaccinated, mobilize the country around vaccination education and outreach efforts, and incentivize vaccination. 

Making it easier to get vaccinated and advance equity --

  • Free child care for individuals getting vaccinated.  Four of the nation’s largest child care providers are offering free child care to all parents and caregivers getting vaccinated or recovering from vaccination.
  • Free rides to vaccination sites by Lyft and Uber.
  • Extended hours at pharmacies across the country.  Thousands of pharmacies are staying open late every Friday in June and offering services throughout the night to make sure those with less flexible work hours have the opportunity to get vaccinated at times convenient to them. 

Mobilizing the country to do more vaccination education and outreach --

  • Community canvassing, phone banking, text banking, and vaccination events.  The Administration’s organizing efforts are focused on what works best: person-to-person action that connects people with information and resources, like Vaccines.gov, text 4-3-8-8-2-9, and the National COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline (1-800-232-0233).
  • “We Can Do This” National Vaccination Tour.  Vice President Harris will lead a tour to highlight the ease of getting vaccinated, encourage vaccinations, and energize and mobilize grassroots initiatives.  The Vice President’s travel will be anchored in the South.  The First Lady, Second Gentleman, and Cabinet members will visit communities across the country -- see video from Secretary Cardona's visit to a vaccination clinic in Michigan.
  • “Mayors Challenge” to increase vaccination rates in cities.  Participating mayors commit to taking actions to boost vaccinations, and the Administration will recognize winning cities later this year.
  • “Shots at the Shop” to engage black-owned barbershops and beauty salons.  Participating shops will engage customers with information, display educational materials, and host on-site vaccination events in partnership with local providers.
  • Blanketing local TV and radio and social media to get Americans the facts and answer their questions.
  • “College Challenge” to increase vaccination rates on campus.  Participating colleges commit to taking action to get their students, staff, and communities vaccinated.  More than 200 sites in 43 states have taken the pledge (Department’s press release).  This builds on the Administration’s efforts to facilitate partnerships between community colleges and pharmacies with the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. 

Incentivizing vaccination (see extended list) --

  • Anheuser-Busch will give away free beer to adults on July 4 to celebrate the country’s progress against COVID-19.
  • CVS launched a sweepstakes for vaccinated people to win free cruises, trips to Super Bowl LVI, and other cash prizes.
  • Door Dash is giving $2 million in gift cards to the National Association of Community Health Centers to encourage vaccinations.
  • Kroger launched a new “Community Immunity” program, giving $1 million to a vaccinated American every week in June and giving dozens of vaccinated Americans free groceries for a year.
  • Major League Baseball teams are offering on-site vaccinations at games and giving free tickets to those who get vaccinated.
  • Microsoft is giving away thousands of Xboxes to Boys and Girls Clubs in hard-hit areas who run promotions and seminars about the importance of vaccinations. 


Returning to College 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently revised its Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education, stating colleges and universities can host in-person learning at full capacity without requiring masks or physical distancing if all of their students, faculty, and staff are fully vaccinated before the fall semester begins.  At schools that lack fully vaccinated populations, administrators should consider the level of virus transmission in their community and vaccine coverage among students and employees.  They should also set up robust testing programs that can identify any clusters of infection or monitor full-fledged outbreaks. 

Responding to the guidance, the Department released its COVID-19 Handbook Volume 3: Strategies for Safe Operation and Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education Students, Faculty, and Staff.  The agency worked with public health officials and partners across the Administration to ensure this resource provides actionable strategies schools can use to implement CDC guidance to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  It also provides strategies on how schools can utilize funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and previous federal relief bills to meet the needs of all students, boost vaccination rates on campus, and address inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, among other topics. 

Also, the Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) hosted the latest in the “Lessons from the Field” webinar series -- “Strategies for Supporting College and University Students Holistically and Safely: CDC Guidance and Best Practices.” 

Separately, the Department informed a number of postsecondary accrediting agencies about the status of their recognition, approving renewal (for five years) for eight but withdrawing recognition from one. 

Additionally, Federal Student Aid (FSA) Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray issued revised guidance to FSA vendors on outside requests for Department data and records, establishing a streamlined and expedited process for reviewing such requests in the interest of federal student loan borrowers (blog post). 


Advancing Equity 

This week, building on the ARP’s historic funding for schools, the Department announced a series of actions to advance equity in education and help schools serve all students.  These actions aim not only to address inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic but also to encourage schools to reimagine their education systems and practice and infuse equity into all of their work.  They are part of the ongoing efforts to implement President Biden’s Executive Order to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities across the federal government and build schools and communities back better than before the pandemic. 

First, the Department is launching an Educational Equity Summit Series focused on how, as schools and campuses continue to reopen and welcome students back for in-person instruction, they must not return to the status quo.  The first installment, on June 22, will explore how schools and communities can reimagine systems so that every student has a voice in their classroom, particularly those from underserved communities.  It will feature discussions on how all students can access a high-quality education responsive to their needs and how all schools can create more culturally and linguistically inclusive learning environments.  Please register to attend virtually.  Information about additional installments in this series will be announced later this summer. 

Second, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a report responding to the President’s Executive Order on supporting the reopening and continuing operation of schools and early childhood education providers.  The report spotlights how COVID-19 threatens to deepen divides in opportunity across schools and campuses if the pandemic’s disparate impacts are not adequately addressed.  It explores how the impacts of the pandemic are falling disproportionately on those who went into the pandemic with the fewest opportunities, many of whom are from marginalized and underserved communities. 

Third, the agency’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) released Maintenance of Equity guidance to implement an important provision of the ARP, making sure that school districts and schools serving a large share of students from low-income backgrounds will not experience disproportionate budget cuts. 


Last week, OCR requested members of the public to submit written comments on the administration of school discipline in PK-12 schools.  This information will assist OCR in determining what policy guidance, technical assistance, or other resources may assist schools in improving climate and safety and supporting equal access to education programs and activities, consistent with the civil rights laws that it enforces.  The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) reveals persistent disparities over time in the use of exclusionary discipline.  For example, in the 2017-18 school year, black students were 15% of student enrollment but 38% of those who received one or more out-of-school suspensions, and students with disabilities were just 13% of student enrollment but 25% of those who received one or more out-of-school suspensions.  The new Request for Information continues OCR’s broad and sustained effort to promote fair and non-discriminatory school discipline, as well as development of safe and inclusive school climates. 


On May 28, the White House submitted to Congress the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2022, including two plans that the President has already put forward -- the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan -- and investments in education, research, public health, and other critical areas. 

The request for the Department of Education would add at least four years of free education (providing universal, high-quality preschool to all three- and four-year-olds and two years of community college); make significant investments in high-poverty schools (including a $20 billion increase in Title I grants); prioritize the physical and mental well-being of students (providing $1 billion to increase the number of school counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers); and boost support for students with disabilities (including a $2.7 billion increase for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]). 

The budget would also boost the federal Pell Grant by $400, which would be the largest one-time increase since 2009. 



“For decades, brave LGBTQ+ Americans have fought for and gained ground for equality and justice.  They have fought to be treated fairly, to live their lives without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination, and to love whom they love and be who they are -- without exception, and with understanding and appreciation.  Yet, in 2021, the fight continues, including in education.  It’s not enough to work toward schools free of harassment: We should deliberately and actively promote positive learning climates, where all students are respected, celebrated, and embraced.  It’s not enough to outlaw discriminatory practices: We should uplift schools and communities that are actively celebrating students’ differences, including differences in sexual orientation and gender identify.  No individual’s differences render them less than anyone else.  In fact, whatever our similarities may be, every individual is also distinct, vibrant, and precious.  Our differences expand our insights.  Our varied life lessons and experiences increase our compassion and strength.  Our unique qualities deepen our curiosity about the identities and perspectives of others….  Tolerance is not, and cannot be, our goal.  Instead, we strive for environments that value and take pride in LGBTQ+ youth.” 

-- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (6/9/21), in a Medium blog and ESPN interview celebrating Pride Month 


The Department’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) briefing series will continue on June 18, 12-1:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  The topic: Advanced Manufacturing -- Jobs for the Future.  Anyone may watch live or the archived session.  (Note: For previous briefings, visit the agency’s STEM landing page.) 

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