November 2021 Issue

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November 2021 Issue

“After months of rigorous and independent scientific review, the Food and Drug Administration — the FDA — authorized and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC — recommended the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11. For parents all over this country, this is a day of relief and celebration. After almost 18 months of anxious worrying every time that … your child had a sniffle or started to cough, well, you can now protect them from this horrible virus. … Twenty-eight million more young Americans are now eligible for the protection of a vaccine, and my administration is ready — we’re ready from day one, today — organized, and have a plan for this vaccination’s launch.”

— President Joe Biden (11/3/21), on the Authorization of the COVID-19 Vaccine for Children Ages 5 to 11

COVID Mitigation by the Numbers

COVID Mitigation By The Numbers

The Department of Education has been hard at work supporting school communities to provide safe in-person instruction this school year. Please see below for the latest updates in three key school safety areas.

COVID-19 Data Dashboard. The Department, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a new COVID-19 data dashboard to help the public keep track of the impact of COVID-19 on K-12 schools. The dashboard aggregates data on pediatric COVID-19 cases, youth vaccination rates, and numbers on schools that are operating in-person, hybrid, or remotely in one location. Data will be updated each week, and where possible, the information is presented geographically so that educators and families can understand the impact of COVID in their communities. This is the first time such data will be presented in a single location to the public.

Vaccinations for Children Ages 5 to 11 Years Old. On Nov. 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommended that children ages 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNtech pediatric vaccine. This recommendation comes after months of rigorous review and the FDA’s decision to authorize emergency use of the vaccine for children. This is an exciting moment in our fight against the virus. After 20 months of a pandemic, parents have long awaited this announcement. The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to keep your child safe and protect them against COVID-19, including the delta variant. Kids are being infected with COVID-19, occasionally leading to serious illness and even death in certain cases. Even if your child doesn’t get severely ill, they could be diagnosed with what is known as “long COVID” and face long-term health consequences or pass the virus on to others.

Parents have approximately 20,000 trusted and convenient locations to visit to get their children vaccinated, with more sites coming online in the weeks ahead. The Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are supporting schools and communities with setting up vaccine solutions that work best for families, including hosting thousands of vaccine clinics at schools, matching school districts to local pharmacy providers, and supporting strong collaborations among schools, families, local pediatricians, and children’s hospitals. To learn more about getting vaccinated or starting a vaccine clinic at your school or community, visit

Testing. In an effort to keep schools open and safe, the Department and CDC are providing resources to states and schools for testing and other mitigation efforts. For example, the Department is partnering with the Rockefeller Foundation to accelerate school-based screening testing for students and staff. The Department, CDC, and The Rockefeller Foundation will collaborate on initiatives to make it easier for schools to set up testing, including by:

  • Making staff available to state health departments through the COVID Workforce Initiative to coordinate, execute, and expand on school-based COVID-19 testing, contact tracing/case investigation, and other public health activities. This additional support from the CDC Foundation can be obtained by contacting CDC at this link.
  • Publishing a start-up guide for schools on how to launch screening testing programs.
  • Holding weekly “office hours” to connect schools to national testing experts to set up and sustain screening testing programs, the details of which can be found at The Rockefeller Foundation website.
  • Launching a directory for schools to identify a provider and get started with testing within their state.
  • Providing guidance for school districts on using American Rescue Plan funds to offer incentives to parents and guardians to participate in screening testing programs.

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

President Biden signs the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill into law

On Nov. 15, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a once-in-a-generation investment in the nation’s physical infrastructure and competitiveness. This bipartisan act will rebuild roads, bridges, ports, and rail; expand access to clean drinking water; help ensure every American has access to high-speed internet; address the climate crisis and advance environmental justice; and support communities that too often have been left behind. Combined with President Biden’s Build Back Better framework, it will also add, on average, 1.5 million jobs per year for the next 10 years.

Among the highlights for education:

  • Clean water. Currently, up to 10 million households and 400,000 schools and child care centers lack safe drinking water. The legislation invests $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water, eliminate the nation’s lead service lines, and help clean up the toxic chemical PFAS.
  • Broadband access and affordability. Reliable, high-speed internet is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, participate equally in school learning, and stay connected. Yet, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. The legislation invests $65 billion to help ensure that every American has access to reliable, high-speed internet through an investment in broadband infrastructure deployment. It will also help lower prices for service and help close the digital divide.
  • Clean school buses. The legislation will deliver thousands of electric school buses, replacing the yellow school bus fleet. Investments in zero- and low-emission public transit will drive demand for American-made batteries and vehicles, creating jobs and supporting domestic manufacturing. It will also help the more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers who breathe polluted air on bus rides. Air pollution is linked to asthma and other health issues that cause students to miss school.

Department Approves Puerto Rico’s Plan for Use of American Rescue Plan Funds to Support K-12 Schools and Students

On Nov. 18, the Department approved Puerto Rico’s American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) plan (Spanish) and distributed remaining ARP ESSER funds to them. Puerto Rico’s plan details how they are using and plan to use ARP ESSER funds to sustain the safe operation of schools and equitably expand opportunity for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Developing a Bill of Rights for an Automated Society

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has launched a series of events to engage the public in the process of developing a Bill of Rights for an Automated Society. 

OSTP Director Eric Lander and Deputy Director for Science and Society Alondra Nelson recently announced that OSTP is engaging a wide array of stakeholders — in industry, academia, government, and the general public — in a national endeavor to make sure new and emerging data-driven technologies abide by the enduring values of American democracy. There are already several ways for the public to join this mission and share their perspectives:

  • Responses may be submitted to a request for information (RFI) on current or planned uses of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled biometric technologies in the private and public sectors until Jan. 15, 2022.
  • Members of the public can email OSTP with their comments about the use of AI and other data-driven technologies in their lives.

U.S. State Department Announces Fulbright Hispanic-Serving Institutions Leader Designation

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) recently announced a new initiative recognizing engagement of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) with the Fulbright Program. Through this inaugural “Fulbright HSI Leader” designation, ECA recognized 35 HSIs that have demonstrated noteworthy engagement with the Fulbright Program during the 2019-2021 academic years and have promoted Fulbright Program opportunities on campus. 

This initiative is part of the U.S. State Department’s long-standing commitment to build diversity and inclusion within the Fulbright Program and within all of the Bureau’s international exchange programs. ECA has established this designation to acknowledge the strong partnerships between the Fulbright Program and HSIs and to encourage the entire network of HSIs to increase their Fulbright engagement. Having strong HSI participation in the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program is critical to fully representing the diversity of the United States through the program.

Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Grant Program

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is seeking applicants to apply for the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Grant Program. The $268 million grant program will provide funding to improve the broadband and digital technology capacities of eligible institutions and support broadband access, adoption, and digital skills within those institutions and in their surrounding anchor communities. Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and consortiums that include partner organizations are eligible to apply. Applications are due Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

2022-2023 School Ambassador Fellowship Program

The application window for the 2022-2023 cohort of the Department’s School Ambassador Fellowship has opened. The School Ambassador Fellowship is designed to improve education outcomes for students by leveraging the expertise of school-based practitioners in the creation, dissemination, and evaluation of national education policy.

The deadline to apply for the 2022-2023 School Ambassador Fellowship is Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. EST. For more information and to apply, please visit the School Ambassador Fellowship website.

Requesting Public Input on Civil Rights Data Collection for 2021-22 School Year

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights is soliciting public input to its proposed 2021-2022 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). 

The Information Collection Request package includes key proposed data elements for the 2021-22 CRDC, which were informed by listening sessions with stakeholders. The public may review the proposed 2021-22 CRDC data elements here.

Hispanic-Serving Institution Resource: NASA MSI Exchange

The NASA MSI Exchange is a website and a system of services that helps broaden participation and connectivity to NASA missions while supporting the competitiveness of minority serving institutions. Is your institution’s capability statement in the NASA MSI Exchange? This resume-like tool is a great way to get your Hispanic-Serving Institution noticed by NASA and its stakeholders for potential collaboration and partnership on government grants, contracts, and awards. Register for a capability statement training session, and receive direct guidance or email to get started.

Energizing STEM Webinar

Join the Department and the U.S. Department of Energy for the Energizing STEM webinar on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 2 p.m. EST. This webinar will share information about programs, student competitions, and workforce development efforts to expand the diversity of the energy workforce and deliver results in the fight against climate change.

2022-2023 White House Fellows Program

The White House Fellows program is seeking applicants for its 2022-2023 cohort. The White House Fellows program is one of America’s most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. White House Fellowships offer exceptional emerging leaders first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the federal government.

Selected individuals typically spend a year working as a full-time, paid Fellow to senior White House staff, cabinet secretaries, and other top-ranking government officials. Fellows also participate in an education program consisting of roundtable discussions with leaders from the private and public sectors and trips to study U.S. policy in action both domestically and internationally. Fellowships are awarded on a strictly non-partisan basis. The application deadline is Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 at 5 p.m. EST.

U.S. Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator Pilot Program Grantees

On Oct. 28, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the grantees for the SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program, an American Rescue Plan initiative designed to reduce barriers that all small businesses, including those owned by disadvantaged groups such as veterans, women, and those from rural communities and communities of color, often face in accessing critical support. The Community Navigator Pilot Program awarded $100 million in funding to 51 organizations that will work with hundreds of local groups to connect America’s entrepreneurs to government resources so they can recover and thrive.

Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program

The NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is seeking applications for the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program from individuals, particularly women and minorities, who due to financial constraints, may not otherwise be able to pursue an advanced degree (master’s or Ph.D.) in oceanography, marine biology, maritime archaeology. These may include, but are not limited to ocean and/or coastal engineering, social science, marine education, marine stewardship, cultural anthropology, and resource management disciplines. The deadline for the 2022 program is Dec. 14.

The Big Read Grant Opportunity

The National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) The Big Read, established in 2016, supports Americans reading and discussing a single book in their communities.  Local governments, libraries, school districts, colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations are encouraged to apply for one of an estimated 75 grants to be awarded for programming occurring between September 2022 and June 2023.  Besides the grant, communities will receive resources, including reader’s guides, teacher’s guides, and audio guides featuring commentary from artists, educators, and public figures, and publicity materials.