August 2021 Issue

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White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative


August 2021 Issue

“Over the past year-and-a-half, as a nation, we experienced struggles like never before.  Schools, teachers, students, and families were challenged in ways none of us ever imagined. But from that struggle came resilience. Teachers, principals, school staff, parents, and -- most importantly -- our nation’s students rose to the occasion. They demonstrated what is possible if we follow key mitigation strategies to keep our students and school communities safe. Now, we must use our renewed strength to focus on what matters most: winning the fight against COVID-19, getting our students back in classrooms for full-time, in-person learning -- together -- and making our education system better than ever before, so that all students receive the excellent education they deserve. I’m proud to be releasing these tools to help make sure students, parents, schools, educators, and communities receive the communication and supports they need to make this academic year a success, and I want all schools this year to lead with a clear focus on health and safety, student well-being, and academic acceleration as students return to classrooms nationwide.” 

— Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, in a statement on the “Return to School Roadmap

Return to School Roadmap Released

Return to School Roadmap

On Aug. 2, the Department released the “Return to School Roadmap” to support students, educators, schools, and communities as they return to safe and healthy in-person learning this fall and emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. The Roadmap features three “landmark” priorities that schools, school districts, and communities are encouraged to focus on to ensure all students are primed for success: (1) prioritizing the health and safety of students, educators, and staff; (2) building school communities and supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health; and (3) accelerating academic achievement. As part of the Roadmap, the agency will share resources for practitioners and parents on each priority and highlight schools and districts using innovative practices to help address the priorities. It will also share how American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding and other federal relief aid may be used to tackle the priorities, as well as outline key investments from President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda needed to deal with inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, particularly for students in underserved communities. 

Among the current resources are:

  • A guide (Spanish) for education systems explaining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including increasing access to COVID-19 vaccinations and taking steps to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently updated K-12 school guidance recommending universal indoor masking for all students, educators, staff, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
  • A checklist (Spanish) that parents may use to prepare themselves and their children for the safe return to in-person learning this fall, leading with information about vaccinating eligible students and using masks if students are not yet vaccinated.
Return to School roadmap Spanish

Presidential Memo Issued on Reopening Schools Safely

On Aug. 18, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum to Secretary Cardona directing him to use all available tools to ensure that governors and other leaders are providing a safe return to in-person learning for the nation’s children. Students have experienced tremendous disruptions in their learning over the past two school years, but, with increased access to vaccinations for school staff and students age 12 and older, proven prevention and mitigation strategies, and unprecedented resources from the ARP, all schools can and should open safely this fall for full-time, in-person instruction. Nevertheless, some state governments have adopted laws and policies that interfere with the ability of schools and school districts to keep children safe during in-person learning -- with some going as far as blocking school officials from adopting safety protocols aligned with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both state and local leaders must do everything possible to put students’ health and safety first and comply with legal obligations to their communities. This memo will ensure the Department is doing everything it can to prevent any interference with school officials taking steps to keep all students safe in full-time, in-person learning, without compromising students’ health or the health of their families or communities.

Following this memo, the Secretary penned a Homeroom blog, “Meeting the President’s Call to Support the Safe and Sustained Reopening of Schools,” in which he outlined the Department’s commitment to protecting the rights of every student and supporting local districts that are protecting students and educators.

Promoting Student and School Staff Health and Safety

Secretary speaking with students

As more students return to school campuses across the country — some for the first time in 18 months — Secretary Cardona has been on the ground emphasizing student and school staff health and safety and access to in-person learning.

The Secretary traveled to Boston, joining CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky for an intimate town hall hosted by the YMCA of Greater Boston and Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston to give students and families the chance to ask questions about plans for going back to school safely and address concerns about returning to the classroom.

He also traveled to Topeka, Kansas, joining Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff for a visit to a school-based vaccine clinic and discussion about getting the community vaccinated.

Plus, he joined remotely an announcement by Pennsylvania state leaders about new vaccine and testing initiatives to support schools.

And, he traveled to New York City, joining Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in the Bronx. They observed and participated in social and emotional learning activities, partially funded under the ARP. They also visited with student athletes, touting the importance of vaccinations for a healthy school year.

Higher Education Updates

On Aug. 6, the Department announced a final extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest, and collections until Jan. 31, 2022. The agency believes this additional period and a definitive end date will allow borrowers to appropriately plan for the resumption of payments and reduce the risk of delinquency and defaults after restart.

The Department published a notice in the Federal Register establishing a negotiated rulemaking committee that will meet virtually beginning in October to rewrite regulations for a range of issues, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness, income-contingent repayment plans, and Borrower Defense to Repayment. These regulations will help borrowers manage repayment or receive a discharge or forgiveness of their federal student loans. The committee will also establish regulations — to be discussed in a subcommittee — to implement Pell Grant eligibility for prison education programs. The Department is interested in committee nominations from individuals and organizations that represent the perspective of historically underserved and/or low-income communities. Nominations are due Aug. 31, 2021.

In addition, over 323,000 borrowers who have a total and permanent disability (TPD) will receive more than $5.8 billion in automatic student loan discharges due to a new regulation announced by the Department. The change will apply to borrowers identified through an existing data match with the Social Security Administration and begin with the September quarterly match. The Department also announced two other policy items related to TPD. First, it will indefinitely extend the policy announced in March to stop asking these borrowers to provide information on their earnings — a process that results in the reinstatement of loans if and when borrowers do not respond — beyond the end of the national emergency. Second, it will pursue complete elimination of the three-year monitoring period required under current regulations during the upcoming negotiated rulemaking.

New Guidance Reaffirms Commitment to Children With Disabilities and Their Families

On Aug. 24, the Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) sent a letter to its state and local partners reiterating its commitment to ensuring children with disabilities and their families have successful early intervention and educational experiences in the 2021-2022 school year. 

This letter outlines a series of question and answers (Q&As) as children and students return to in-person learning. The Q&As focus on topics to help ensure that — regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic or the mode of instruction — children with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and that infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families receive early intervention services. 

STEM at CDC Website Portal

Have you ever wondered how public health brings together science, technology, engineering, and math, and other disciplines to create a healthier world? The CDC’s STEM at CDC website portal has a variety of public health STEM activities, resources, trainings, and so much more that inspire the next generation of STEM learners to pursue public health careers. Whether you are a teacher, educator, student, public health professional, partner, policymaker, communicator, or someone who is just curious about the work at CDC, this site is a helpful gateway towards a STEM journey in public health. For questions, information, and feedback, please contact

Welcome Back to School

Back to School

The White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative would like to wish each student, teacher, school staff, and principal a safe and wonderful school year. We are look forward to hearing stories of success and learning in your classroom. Welcome Back to School!

Back-to-School Federal Resources

In addition to the “Return to School Roadmap,” various federal agencies have released back to school resources for students and families:

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:

Request for Information: STEM Education at Community Colleges

The U.S. Department of Defense recently released a Request for Information (RFI) that aims to inform science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education at two-year postsecondary institutions, including community colleges. The RFI has a dual focus: (1) Transitioning students from two-year community college STEM programs to STEM degrees at four-year institutions through a consortium-based approach; and (2) Preparing an agile and diverse workforce through technical training and certificate programs, and supporting those programs through collaborative partnerships and consortia. While not tied to funding, this RFI may inform future efforts and/or shape foci and priorities in the National Defense Education Program. Responses to the RFI should be sent to by Sept. 10, 2021.

Second Chance Pell Expanded

The Department announced it will expand the Second Chance Pell experiment for the 2022-23 award year. This pilot has provided educational opportunities for thousands of justice-involved individuals who have previously been unable to access federal need-based financial aid. Expansion will permit up to 200 additional colleges and universities to offer prison education programs with support from the federal Pell Grant program -- up from 131 institutions participating now. Colleges and universities interested in participating are directed to submit a letter of interest no later than Oct. 28.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The Federal Communications Commission continues to encourage eligible consumers to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The benefit will provide eligible households up to $50 per month off the household’s monthly internet bill.

Eligibility for households includes:

  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year.
  • Received a federal Pell Grant during the current award year.

Presidential Management Fellows Applicant Webinars

Throughout the month of September, the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program will be hosting a series of informational webinars for prospective applicants about the upcoming PMF Class of 2022 Application. They will provide a general overview of the PMF Program, details about the 2022 application cycle, and, if time permits, allow for any questions. Please note that several of the webinars have a specific focus related to strategic recruitment goals, but all will cover the basics of the program and are open to all majors.

FDIC Financial Management Scholars Program

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has upcoming internship positions available. Ideal candidates are students who have majors in accounting, banking, business administration, economics, finance, or a related field. The Financial Management Scholars (FMS) internship program is a pipeline for our entry-level Financial Institution Specialist program. If students successfully complete the internships, they may be offered full-time positions  noncompetitively — upon graduation. The internship opportunity announcement is open through Nov. 30, 2021.