July 2021 Issue

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White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative

NUESTRA INICIATIVA

July 2021 Issue


“This is our moment to have the difficult conversations about how to build back better, how to lead transformatively, and how to use every penny provided by the President and Congress to ensure that those most impacted by the pandemic receive the most support. … Are we going to lead through this and come out stronger? Or is the temptation of complacency going to dissipate our call to action? I remember growing up listening to hip hop icons Public Enemy, and they encouraged challenging the system and ‘Fighting the Power.’ Well, now, we are the system. It’s on us to make the change we need in our country. In many places, small incremental change is not enough. We will need innovative and creative leadership fueled by urgency. … These next months and years will determine the trajectory of success for millions of students in our care.” 

— Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, from keynote remarks for the first installment of the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Equity Summit Series  


Secretary Cardona Visits Puerto Rico

Secretary Cardona in Puerto Rico

Secretary Miguel Cardona visited Puerto Rico on June 27-30. As the first member of President Biden’s Cabinet to visit, he reinforced the Administration’s commitment to the island through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and its continued support for Puerto Rico’s K-12 and higher education students, educators, and families. 

In San Juan, the Secretary met with the governor, interim secretary of education, House speaker, Senate president, union leaders, and the University of Puerto Rico system president and local campus chancellor. Then, he traveled to several schools outside the capital city to engage directly with students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders. 

Before the trip, the Secretary informed the governor and interim secretary of education that they now have full access to federal education pandemic relief funds earmarked for the island and other education program grants. These funds total nearly $4 billion, with $2 billion from the ARP, $1.2 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, and $662 million in fiscal year 2020 program grants. 


Secretary Cardona's Coast to Coast Tour

Secretary Cardona visits Oregon school

During National Summer Learning Week (July 12-16), Secretary Miguel Cardona conducted a coast to coast tour to engage with education stakeholders to discuss key highlights of education provisions within the President’s Build Back Better agenda.

The Secretary participated in school tours and roundtable discussions with education leaders and students at Johnson C. Smith University and Paw Creek Elementary School in Charlotte, N.C.; Witch Hazel Elementary School and  Southridge High School in northwest Ore.; Tohono O’odham Community College in Sells, Ariz.; and Rowan College of South Jersey and North Camden Community Center in N. J.. The Secretary also participated in a “Field Day” mentoring event as part of the READY SET initiative in Los Angeles, Calif.


Equity Summit Series

On June 22, the Department held the initial installment of its Equity Summit Series. It featured welcoming remarks by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, keynote remarks by Secretary Miguel Cardona, and participation by Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, school leaders, and educators from across the country. It also featured several student performances.

This first installment, subtitled “Building Equitable Learning Environments in Our Schools,” explored how schools and communities can reimagine their systems so every student has a voice in their school and classroom, particularly students from underserved communities. Participants discussed the historic investments in the American Rescue Plan -- aimed at advancing equity in school reopening efforts -- and how proposals outlined in President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget request, the American Jobs Plan, and the American Families Plan can address inequities that were exacerbated by the pandemic and help build truly equitable schools nationwide. They also discussed how students can access a high-quality education responsive to their needs and how schools can develop more culturally and linguistically inclusive learning environments. 

The Department will hold additional installments over the coming months focused on how, as schools and campuses continue to reopen and bring back more students for in-person instruction, they must not return to the status quo. 


TEACH Grant Changes

On July 1, the Department announced changes to the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program, the only federal student aid grant program that directly benefits teachers working in high-need fields and underserved schools. 

The Department’s Federal Student Aid office also launched new and improved digital forms and resources to help inform and guide TEACH Grant recipients. The program changes are reflected on the TEACH Grant Program webpage.


American Rescue Plan State Plan Approvals

The Department has announced the approval of seven ARP Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund state plans -- Arkansas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and the District of Columbia -- and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to those jurisdictions. The plans detail how states are currently using and intend to use ARP ESSER funds to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and classrooms and address the needs of students, including by equitably expanding opportunity for students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. 


Department Announces Temporary Changes to the Federal Aid Verification Process for the 2021-22 Award Year

On July 13, the Department announced temporary changes to the federal student aid verification process for the 2021-22 award year. The temporary changes will provide relief to millions of students and colleges facing challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department will focus aid verification on identity theft and fraud for the 2021-22 application cycle, significantly reducing other barriers that have prevented students most in need from accessing critical financial aid funds. This action is part of the Department’s broader efforts to provide relief to students and borrowers impacted by the pandemic and address inequities made worse by COVID-19.

While the challenges students experience with verification extend beyond the pandemic, data from the National Student Clearinghouse show college undergraduate enrollment rates fell 4.9% in spring 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. Those declines were even steeper for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. These enrollment declines have also been sharpest at community colleges, which saw a 9.5% decrease in enrollment and are already significantly resource-constrained due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. Department research shows that targeting verification this aid cycle can help approximately 200,000 more students from low-income backgrounds and students of color enroll in college and continue on the path to a degree.



Grant Opportunity: Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth

Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) gives local, state, and Tribal governments flexibility to innovate to improve the outcomes of disconnected youth, offering waivers of federal requirements that impede effective and integrated service delivery. It also offers the ability to blend funds from multiple federal programs, eliminating the need to account for and report on them separately. Applications are due Aug. 23. Technical assistance is available by contacting DisconnectedYouth@ed.gov.


The Presidential Management Fellows Program Application Dates Have Been Announced

The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program is the federal government’s premier leadership development program for advanced degree candidates across all disciplines. It is a two-year fellowship with full salary and benefits leading to a career in the federal government. The program works with over 100 federal agencies to place fellows. 

This year’s application period will run from Sept. 28- Oct. 12 (opening and closing at noon ET). The PMF program office is hosting information sessions for prospective applicants on the program and application process throughout the month of September. You are eligible to apply if you are a recent grad (i.e., you obtained your advanced degree any time from Sept. 28, 2019, through Sept. 28, 2021) or a current grad (i.e., you expect to complete all advanced degree requirements, including the completion or successful defense of any required thesis or dissertation, by Aug. 31, 2022). Sign up for the PMF listserv (select “PMF” from the drop-down menu).

Are you an academic stakeholder (career services staff, faculty, dean, etc.) who wants to learn more about the PMF Program so that you can share information about this opportunity with your students? Sign up for the PMF academia-specific listserv (select “PMFCAMPUS” from the drop-down menu), and staff will follow up with more information about their annual academic stakeholders’ meetings.


Department Releases More Than $3 Billion in ARP Funds to Support Children With Disabilities

The Department released more than $3 billon in American Rescue Plan funds to states to support infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. This new funding will help more than 7.9 million people served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Department also released a fact sheet that describes how ARP IDEA funds may be used by states.


Vaccinations, Return to In-Person Learning Webinar

On June 22, the Department-funded Center for Parent Information and Resources hosted a webinar Vaccinations, Return to In-Person Learning, and What All Parents Need to Know. The webinar featured key representatives from the Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who discussed schools safely reopening in the fall for in-person learning. Participants received information about the process to get their children back in the classroom, testing, and vaccine safety. A recording of the event is now available.


July 22 Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative Virtual Session

Please join the Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative for the next virtual session on July 22, which will focus on ways to engage assets in local communities to support summer learning and enrichment. The opening plenary will feature community schools as a model for supporting equitable and comprehensive learning opportunities, providing innovative examples of how the community school strategy has been used to support students and families and organize comprehensive summer and out-of-school programming.


Lessons From the Field Webinar Series Continues

The Department is continuing to host its Lessons from the Field webinar series. Below are the recordings and slides of recent webinars:


NASA Mission Equity

On June 15, NASA launched Mission Equity, a comprehensive effort to assess expansion and modification of agency programs, procurements, grants, and policies to examine potential barriers and challenges for communities that are historically underrepresented and underserved.

Join the dialogue by sharing ideas and feedback, including those related to diversity and equal opportunity in the STEM community, before Aug. 31. For additional information, view the public meeting entitled Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities in NASA Programs, Contracts and Grants that was held on July 13.


Emergency Connectivity Fund

The Federal Communications Commission announced a new funding opportunity to help schools close the homework gap: the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). Under ECF, eligible schools and libraries can apply for financial support to purchase connected devices, such as laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity to serve the unmet needs of students and staff at home during the COVID-19 emergency period. The filing widow runs through Aug. 13.


Hispanic-Serving Institutions Grant Opportunity: National Endowment of the Arts American Rescue Plan Grants

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has released guidelines and application materials  as well as resources for applicants for two programs to distribute American Rescue Plan funds. These programs are open to nonprofit arts and culture organizations and local arts agencies, regardless of whether they have received NEA funding in the past. This is a change from previous emergency funding requirements at the NEA and significantly expands access to federal funds for the arts and culture sector.


Peer Review Opportunities With the Department

The Department recently announced opportunities for individuals to participate in its peer review process by reviewing applications for competitive grant funding. The opportunities are for grant competitions in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Office of Postsecondary Education, and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. This is a great opportunity for Hispanic education professionals and practitioners to participate in peer review panels for Department grant competitions.