ED Review (09/17/21)

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September 17, 2021


POTUS at Brookland 

On September 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 (President’s remarks). 

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 (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; and
  • provides every resource to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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 northeast Washington, D.C.  “I want folks to know that we’re going to be okay,” the President stressed.  “We know what it takes to keep our children safe and our schools open, and we have the tools to do it….  “We owe it to [our students] to do everything that we can to keep them safe in school -- dreaming, learning, thriving, socializing, becoming good citizens” (C-SPAN video, President’s remarks, and Secretary’s tweet). 

Earlier that week, Secretary Cardona and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy joined Fox News’s “Special Report” to answer questions about COVID-19. 

Then, early this week, the Secretary and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky joined NBC’s “TODAY” to answer questions from students, parents, and teachers. 

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a toolkit for K-12 school administrators responding to COVID-19 cases. 

Also, as part of its interactive Return to School Roadmap, the Department released “Maximizing In-Person Learning and Implementing Effective Practices for Students in Quarantine and Isolation.” 

Plus, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released two resource collections, or virtual “resource binders,” to assist schools and institutions in supporting a successful and equitable school year.  Both resource collections -- one for K-12 schools and the other for postsecondary institutions -- contain fact sheets, Q&As, letters to educators and school leaders, and related materials about their responsibilities to provide educational environments free from discrimination under the federal civil rights laws enforced by OCR.  They are organized into sections focused on race, color, and national origin discrimination, discrimination based on disability, and sex discrimination (blog post). 

Finally, check out this video of 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars on campus and ready to safely get back to class. 


Bus Tour 

Next week (September 20-24), Secretary Cardona will 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 will feature 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 will visit with students, families, and educators from pre-kindergarten through higher education, spotlighting their excitement and preparedness for safe in-person learning this fall.  (Note: The Secretary also released his Spotify playlist for the journey.) 

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 (ESSER) funds and $40 billion in Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) funds under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) -- for such efforts. 

Additional information and exact timing for each site visit will be released the day prior to the tour stop. 

Of course, the Secretary has been traveling for much of the last two weeks, with stops in Waterbury, Connecticut (photos); Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (photos and video recap); Delran, New Jersey (news article); his hometown of Meriden, Connecticut, for a special 9/11 ceremony (news article); and New York City (photos). 


American Rescue Plan 

Since the last ED Review issue, the Department announced approval of four more ARP ESSER Fund state plans -- Idaho, Maine, Nevada, and North Carolina -- and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funding to those jurisdictions.  The plans detail how states are using and intend to use ARP ESSER funds to safely reopen and sustain the operations of schools and classrooms and address the essential needs of students, including by equitably expanding educational opportunities for students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.  Earlier this year, the agency distributed two-thirds of ARP ESSER funding, or $81 billion, to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  The remaining third is being made available to states once plans are approved.  To date, 37 plans have been approved (see state-by-state press releases and highlights online). 


On September 14, by a bipartisan vote, the Senate confirmed James Kvaal as Under Secretary of Education.  “James Kvaal…has a deep understanding of the strengths, needs, and challenges in postsecondary education,” Secretary Cardona noted in a statement.  “This is critical at a time when increasing college access, affordability, and completion is key to helping America build back better.  With this confirmation, the Biden Administration and the American people gain a dedicated and distinguished public servant with strong expertise in higher education who will always put students first….  James recognizes the life-changing power of higher education, and I am delighted to welcome him to the agency.” 

Whether you are a student or parent, years away from college or about to start, one of these checklists will help you get ready. 

The 2022-23 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and FAFSA on the Web worksheet are available in English and Spanish, in PDF, as resources that may be used as a training tool or for financial aid presentations. 

The most recent post to the Data Matters blog of the Department’s Office of the Chief Data Officer promotes the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) Transparency Portal and the data collection outcomes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act HEER Fund annual reports. 


Last week, the Biden Administration celebrated the 2021 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Week.  Specifically, on September 3, the President signed an executive order establishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs, housed at the Department of Education, and a proclamation acknowledging National HCBUs Week.  The White House Initiative on HCBUs also hosted its annual HBCU Week Conference. 

Moreover, the President announced his intent to appoint Dr. Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University, as Chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs. 

This week, in similar fashion, the Biden Administration celebrated the 2021 National Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) Week.  Indeed, on September 13, the President signed an executive order establishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics, as well as a proclamation acknowledging National HSIs Week.  The President also recognized by proclamation the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs September 15 to October 15 (Secretary Cardona’s video). 

Notably, the Secretary will chair this initiative and designate an executive director to lead the initiative’s day-to-day operations. 



“My mother used to say that ‘courage lies in every heart, and one day it will be summoned.’  It was summoned and shown by those who responded to the events on 9/11.  First responders, emergency workers, and civilians ran to where the devastation was the greatest, where death came in an instant, but where there were survivors to be found; a determined group of heroes on board United Flight 93 sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others -- in every case, Americans faced the unimaginable with resolve and courage.  Today and every day, we draw hope from the strength and selflessness of those who stepped up to serve their fellow man and our nation on that tragic day….  Over the last two decades, the American people have demonstrated that the harder the circumstances, the more resilient and stronger we become.  Our shared love of country and our shared values…unite us as Americans against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” 

-- President Joseph Biden (9/10/21), in a proclamation on Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, 2021 


All are welcome to join the Department’s Constitution Day event, today from 12 noon to 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time.  The Department partnered with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and iCivics, an organization founded by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, to develop a special program to help ensure all Americans have the knowledge -- and can be inspired -- to participate in our unique form of self-government.  The virtual link is limited to the initial 1,000 participants, so please connect a few minutes early.  (Note: The session is being recorded for viewing at a later time.) 

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