September 2021 Issue

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White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics logo

NUESTRA INICIATIVA

September 2021 Issue


“During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize that Hispanic heritage is American heritage. We see it in every aspect of our national life: on our television and movie screens, in the music that moves our feet, and in the foods we enjoy. We benefit from the many contributions of Hispanic scientists working in labs across the country to help us fight COVID-19 and the doctors and the nurses on the front lines caring for people’s health. Our Nation is represented by Hispanic diplomats who share our values in countries all over the world and strengthened by military members and their families who serve and sacrifice for the United States. Our communities are represented by Hispanic elected officials, and our children are taught by Hispanic teachers. Our future will be shaped by Hispanic engineers who are working to develop new technology that will help us grasp our clean energy future and by the skilled union workers who are going to build it.”

— President Joe Biden, in a proclamation on National Hispanic Heritage Month, 2021.


Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics

On Sept. 13, President Biden signed an executive order establishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics (Initiative). The Initiative’s scope was expanded to advance educational equity and economic opportunity for Latino and Hispanic students, families, and communities. It names Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as chair of the Initiative. Also, the executive order establishes the Presidential Advisory Commission on Advancing on Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics that will provide advice to the President through  Secretary Cardona on matters pertaining to educational equity and economic opportunity for the Hispanic and Latino community. In addition, it allows the Initiative to establish a Federal Interagency Working Group to collaborate regarding resources and opportunities available across the federal government to increase educational and economic opportunities for Hispanics and Latinos. Subscribe to Nuestra Iniciativa to learn the latest updates and events of the Initiative.


Return to School Road Trip

Logo of the Return to School Roadtrip

From Sept. 20-24, Secretary Cardona hit the road for his “Return to School Road Trip,” a bus tour to showcase students and communities safely returning to in-person instruction. The trip  featured stops in Eau Claire, Madison, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Palatine and Chicago, Illinois; Kendallville, Indiana; Toledo, Ohio; and Mt. Pleasant, Lansing, Detroit, and Canton, Michigan. The Secretary  visited with students, families, and educators from prekindergarten through higher education, spotlighting their excitement and preparedness for safe in-person learning this fall. Many of the schools and communities on the tour have successfully implemented the priorities within the Return to School Roadmap and have used federal pandemic relief funds — including more than $130 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds and $40 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief funds under the American Rescue Plan — for such efforts.

Follow @SecCardona and @usedgov on social media for photos and videos of each stop. In addition, the Secretary released his Spotify playlist for the road trip.


Returning to School Safely

President Biden and the First Lady  visit a classroom in Washington D.C.

On Sept. 9, President Biden outlined a six-pronged, comprehensive national strategy to fight COVID-19. This plan employs the same science-based approach that was used successfully to address previous variants earlier this year. It will ensure that the country is using every available tool to combat COVID-19 and save more lives in the months ahead, while also keeping schools open and safe and protecting the economy as well.

Regarding keeping schools open and safe, the strategy:

  • Requires teachers and staff in Head Start programs, Department of Defense schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools to be vaccinated.
  • Calls on all states to adopt vaccine requirements for all school employees.
  • Provides additional funding such as Project SAFE to school districts for safe school reopening, including backfilling salaries and other funding withheld by states for implementing COVID-19 safety measures.
  • Calls on all schools to regularly test students and school staff.
  • Provides every resource to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration  to support timely review of vaccines for individuals under the age of 12.

A day after his announcement, the President, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, and Secretary Cardona stopped by Brookland Middle School in Washington, D.C. to share how the Administration is helping to keep students safe in the classroom.

To continue promoting school safety, Secretary Cardona and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy joined Fox News’ “Special Report” to answer questions about COVID-19. In addition, Secretary Cardona and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky joined NBC’s “TODAY” to answer questions from students, parents, and teachers.

Two federal resources were released to assist school administrators and district leaders on school safety: 


OCR Investigates State Prohibitions on Universal Indoor Masking

On Aug. 30, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened directed investigations in five states exploring whether state prohibitions on universal indoor masking discriminate against students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 by preventing them from safely accessing in-person education. OCR sent letters to the Chief State School Officers of Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah, outlining how prohibitions of universal indoor masking prevent school districts from implementing policies that they determine are necessary to protect students from exposure to COVID-19 — including those with underlying medical conditions related to their disability.


Puerto Rico Education Sustainability Team Formed

On Sept. 15, the Department announced the formation of the Puerto Rico Education Sustainability (PRES) Team (Spanish). The PRES team will provide comprehensive support for Puerto Rico, including coordination with stakeholders who assist in strengthening the stewardship of federal funds and helping improve educational outcomes for students.

The PRES team has started initial work collaborating with the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) and identified three key priority areas:

  • Financial responsibility, with the goal of PRDE regaining financial management authority of their federal funds.
  • Safe and healthy school buildings, working with partners to provide technical assistance as the PRDE continues school infrastructure improvements.
  • Program support, continuing to support PRDE in their use of American Rescue Plan and other federal pandemic recovery funds, along with bolstered technical assistance for high-quality instruction and programs and improved implementation of major formula grant programs.

Digital Literacy Accelerator Competition Now Open

The Digital Literacy Accelerator calls upon interested participants to design, prototype, pilot, and refine an educational intervention aimed at helping students and adults learn crucial skills related to strengthening digital literacy, particularly around civil discourse and identifying and combating misinformation. Applications are due Oct. 7.

The Digital Literacy Accelerator will offer participants a hands-on opportunity to iterate on new ideas that can be applied to innovative educational interventions related to digital literacy. Each team of two to five members will have a chance to win a minimum of $2,000 in prize money by completing four milestones in the design process. Teams will receive a minimum of $500 for each milestone associated with their acceptance and convening activities. Those selected to participate will receive support from leading experts in both digital literacy and design thinking, with an emphasis on equity-oriented design processes, as well as support from peers and leaders.


FDIC Launches Second Annual Academic Challenge

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has launched the Second Annual Academic Challenge, a competition among teams of college students to address questions concerning the U.S. banking sector. The topic for this year’s challenge is “The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Banking Sector.” The FDIC will challenge teams to use government and other public data to inform their insights. Participants will have the opportunity to showcase their analytical and presentation skills, to be exposed to important issues in banking, and to deepen their experiences working in teams. The deadline to participate is Nov. 19.


Emergency Connectivity Fund Program Now Open

The Federal Communications Commission announced a second filing window of their Emergency Connectivity Fund Program. From Sept. 28 to Oct. 13, eligible schools and libraries may apply for financial support to purchase equipment and services for students, school staff, and library patrons with unmet needs.


National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month logo

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed yearly from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. To celebrate the contributions and achievements of the Hispanic community, President Biden released a proclamation on National Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Secretary Cardona shared a message reflecting on the importance of recognizing the contributions and the limitless potential of the Hispanic community.

On Sept. 15, the White House hosted a roundtable featuring four Hispanic Cabinet leaders: Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration Isabel Guzman. They shared views about the significance of Latino leadership in key policy areas and how their lived cultural experiences guided their careers.  


National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week

National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week logo

President Biden proclaimed Sept.  12 through Sept. 18, 2021, as National Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) Week. National HSIs Week is a weeklong celebration of the achievements of HSIs and highlights their role in preparing students, including many Hispanic students, for success. Secretary Cardona shared a message on the critical role of HSIs in higher education. Nationwide, HSIs held events and student showcases to celebrate the week, which can be found on social media using #HSIsWeek.


Upcoming Initiative Hispanic Heritage Month Events

To commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, the Initiative will be co-hosting various events. Please register to the following virtual events:


HSI Grant Opportunity From HUD Office of Housing Counseling

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Housing Counseling invites Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), such as HSIs, to apply for the Comprehensive Housing Counseling Grant Program. The funding will assist those homeowners and renters who continue to struggle financially because of COVID-19, particularly individuals and families of color who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This year, $3 million will fund an initiative for HUD-approved housing counseling agencies that demonstrate their status as a MSI and to HUD-approved housing counseling agencies partnering with a MSI to provide quality services to consumers to address their housing and financial needs. The application is due on Oct. 14.


Upcoming Federal Agencies' Virtual Symposiums

During Hispanic Heritage Month, federal agencies are hosting virtual symposiums aimed at promoting federal resources and opportunities to Hispanic-Serving Institutions and students:


U.S. Department of Energy Community College Internships Program Open

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is accepting application for their Community College Internships program. The program seeks to encourage community college students to enter technical careers relevant to the DOE mission by providing technical training experiences at the DOE laboratories. Selected students participate as interns appointed at one of 16 participating DOE laboratories. The deadline to apply is Oct. 6.